The XYZ Affair – The Khyber, Philadelphia

When I was told that Brooklyn based The XYZ Affair is “adorable,” I was slightly skeptical. Indie rockers are hip or ironic or cool. Rarely does Brooklyn associate itself with “adorable,” unless you’re talking to a Park Slope mom about her children, and even then you’re more likely to hear “precocious.” As soon as the quartet began loading their equipment, I discovered that “adorable” was more than an apt adjective.

Jokes were cracked throughout the load and sound check, and keyboardist / guitarist / vocalist Russ Maschmeyer was deadpan as he told the audience, “You all look very attractive. I like your haircuts.” Maschmeyer’s bandmates, Alex Feder (guitar, vocals), Chris Bonner (bass) and Sam Rockwell (drums) then laughed with each other, though Maschmeyer reiterated his sentiment moments before the band launched into their first song.

The quartet began their first song a cappella and stomping their feet commanding the audience’s attention before segueing into melodic indie pop with dynamic drums, a pulsing bass line and falsetto vocals. Another song in the set began a cappella and had a 1950s feel to it, yet wasn’t quite the doo wop it had the potential to be. Maschmeyer’s falsetto stood out especially in the a cappella parts, giving those songs a unique and welcome character.

Rockwell, despite problems with his monitor, went absolutely crazy on the next song while Bonner maintained his pulsing bass line on a fast and catchy pop song. While Rockwell’s monitor problems were being sorted out by the sound guy, the other band members gave stage banter a try. They asked, “Who bought 7 new tires in the past 3 months?” A strange question, it understandably caught the audience off guard.

Bonner answered the rhetorical question with, “We did. 7 new tires in 3 months. [pause] That’s a lot!” Later in the set, Maschmeyer apologized, saying, “We are notoriously bad at stage banter. Jukebox the Ghost [headlining band] is great at it! We’d come just to watch them banter for a whole set.” By then, Rockwell’s monitor problems were mostly solved and the band broke into “Smile,” which Maschmeyer used to tell the crowd, “so please feel free to.” They began hard and rocking but the song soon mellowed out, bringing prominence to the excess reverb in the monitors and amps.

Several new songs decorated the XYZ Affair’s set and the band announced that they’d be recording them later this month. Fans should look forward to a new EP dropping by June 1st, assuming all goes well. While their spring tour has wrapped, the XYZ Affair will be touring again in July for a few more weeks of hitting the road. Check back for tour dates!

more @ flickr

The XYZ Affair: website | myspace

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