by Nick Hanover
Photos by Adrian Gandara
Amidst the den of exhaust rumble and played out classic rock that is ROT Rally, a tiny oasis could be seen at Space 24 Twenty, both figuratively and actually. As Socha and her band set up their instruments, artist Mary Añez painted what slowly revealed itself to be a serene islandscape, the soft blues and yellows a tranquil complement to Socha and company’s lavender and pink color scheme. Perhaps the artist was inspired by the “scent” and “taste” sections of Socha’s bio, comprised of “rosewater, lavender, ocean air” and “sugary grapefruit, guava and banana sno cone, creme brullee,” respectively.
Whatever the case was, the island aesthetic fit Socha well in another, subtler way: invigorating and colorful as her music may be, she is also a hurricane in all kinds of weather, prone to cathartic bursts that bring just the right amount of danger and chaos to her meticulous songs.
That rambunctious quality was particularly welcome given the tendency of so many of Socha’s local peers to perform with the temerity of a kid waiting in a dental lobby, a trait that likely comes from the similar inclinations of the twee influences they pull from, be it Orange Juice or notoriously shy live act Belle & Sebastian. Socha and her bandmates weren’t just confident, they played with a steely intensity more often found in seasoned mercenaries, something that came through particularly well in standout single “Go Wrongs,” where Jim Hampton’s barbwire rhythm guitar locked in so tightly with Kinseli Jazz’s mutant disco bass and Will Sturrock’s drumming you’d have thought they were conjoined triplets.
With her backing band keeping everything air tight, Socha was free to flit about the stage, a pink tutu turned sash floating around her with its own trajectory. On “Go Wrongs,” she ran in place, a pastel hued Karen O, fists pumping in the air as a puckish grin spread across her face, seemingly surprised by her own delight in the sounds she was producing. Even the stern and stoic Hampton couldn’t resist the charm of Socha’s display and allowed a subtle smile to form at the corners of his mouth.
Initially, Socha let the songs primarily speak for themselves, keeping the stage banter short or altogether nonexistent. But as the show went on and she and her band loosened up, that joy at her own music couldn’t help but come through in remarks to the crowd. Before beginning recent single “Let’s Regress,” she spoke about bad romantic decisions and how you can’t avoid making them even as you see they’re coming but that same puckish grin as from before was there, making it clear that Socha is an artist who treasures mistakes as much as perfection, and is proud of how she has been able to turn those romantic lemons into musical lemonade, as she should be.
Christelle Bofale, by contrast, is a more softly-spoken and mysterious performer, but just as magnetic. Backed only by lead guitarist Jake Smith, Bofale’s set was a different kind of intimate, closer to reading someone’s journal than having an impromptu drunken dance party with them. The sparse set-up allowed Bofale’s ornate guitar playing to shine, with its dazzling rhythms and melodic flourishes, while also leaving plenty of the spotlight for her unique and haunting voice.
Though Bofale’s wondrous EP Swim Team has an eerie majesty to it, out in the open air of Space 24 Twenty, on a hot but palatable day, with no percussion or bass or keyboard to augment her, the gulfstream texture of Bofale’s voice combined with the mesmerizing style of her and Smith’s guitar work made for a transcendental experience. Swim Team is produced like a collaboration between Ride and Sade but in this stripped down live environment, her music unexpectedly recalled Joni Mitchell.
That was clearest on “Origami Dreams,” where the gorgeous melodies of the song’s first half gave way to the abstract, borderline ambient wind down of the final half. Technical but still passionate and listenable, the interplay between Bofale and her guitarist was hypnotic while remaining riveting enough to keep you craving more.
All told, it was a near spiritual event that confirmed Socha and Christelle Bofale are two of the most impressive talents to emerge in Austin in the past few years. That made it all the more confounding that there wasn’t more of an audience there, especially with the free entry and unlimited free drinks. Somehow I can’t help but suspect that when these two artists fully blow up (and Bofale is already on the cusp, with her recent Pitchfork acclaim) a lot more of you will claim you were there that day. Tsk tsk.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover