The Veldt
Cat’s Cradle Back Room, Carrboro
Monday, April 11, 2016

As The Veldt closed its Cat’s Cradle Back Room set Monday night, the last words vocalist Daniel Chavis sang were “wanna find another way.”

The midsize crowd was pressed close to the stage, as requested by the band before starting “Symmetry.” Daniel, his guitarist twin Danny Chavis, programmer and multi-instrumentalist Hayato Nakao, and drummer Marvin Levi seemed incredibly content. The Veldt got its mid-eighties start in neighboring Chapel Hill, so these four were in their element, with a small room half full of familiar faces. It seemed hard to believe Daniel would, in fact, want to find another way.

Given The Veldt’s thirty-year history, the band could easily have pulled a Pixies and toured as a legacy act, albeit on a smaller scale. Yet here they were on a Monday night, sandwiched between Durham’s Hanz and touring Atlanta act Algiers, playing a passionate, vibrant set. They could have nodded to 1994 and played “Soul in a Jar,” say, but that would have frozen them in time. Instead, Daniel excitedly announced “Sanctified,” off new EP The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation, as the set’s penultimate song. He lifted his guitar by the neck, cradling it like a baby, and belted “hallelujah.” He was very, very present.

With bands this longstanding, there’s the temptation to slog through the past just to reach the present. As I wrote last week and as Mike Doherty did for The Guardian in February, The Veldt’s history is rich with Behind the Music-level drama, meriting coverage for sure. How does one do service to both that and the living, breathing band that’s finally back at it?

A man with a shoulder-mounted video camera wandered through the crowd Monday night, its light illuminating huge swathes of the room. On the side of his camera was a small screen, revealing the image he was recording. As he recorded, I could look into the screen and see the rapt faces of audience members, captured one by one. Or I could turn my head and see the people he was taping, standing just a few feet from me, but without the hyper-focus of the camera eye. Or I could look straight ahead to the stage, through the camera’s glare, where The Veldt was playing “Everlasting Gobstopper” with verve, its massive wash of programmed sound and twelve-string guitar coupled with Levi’s grooves and Daniel’s impassioned vocals. Maybe later that footage will show up in a retrospective or a documentary – I didn’t ask – but The Veldt proved Monday night that it remains a band best experienced live and head-on.