Dean Wareham, Boogarins
Cat’s Cradle Back Room, Carrboro
Thursday, March 3, 2014

In his memoir and autobiography, Black Postcards, Dean Wareham recounts the mundaneness, indignities and brief moments of transcendence he experienced as the leader of two critically lauded indie rock bands, beginning in the late ’80s with Galaxie 500. The tone is dry and bemused, much like the dreamy, Velvet Underground-beholden songs that remain his signature.

Currently on a small-theater tour in support of his first LP under his own name, Wareham fronted a four-piece band that included his wife and frequent collaborator, Britta Phillips, on bass, harmony vocals and occasional keyboard. But while the solid, Jim James-produced new record is the ostensible reason for the tour, that doesn’t mean Wareham has it in him to say something like, “This is a song from the new album.” Unless you were familiar with the new LP, released last month, it wasn’t always entirely clear whether you were hearing a new song or an unfamiliar old one. For better or worse, they all sound of a piece.

Wearing a black T-shirt marked ASTORIA (after a working-class neighborhood in Queens), Wareham brought an unmistakable air of urban cool to the Cat’s Cradle Back Room stage. This is, of course, what one expects from a man hailed by Rolling Stone as “one of the great New York pop sophisticates,” but somehow Wareham’s affectlessness was not ideally suited to such an intimate space. Looking past or through an audience that stood mere feet away from the low stage, he maintained his distance in a room that offers very little of it.
Nevertheless, the songs brimmed with warm tube-amp grandeur as Wareham and a second guitarist took turns leisurely unfurling lead lines over the mostly walking-paced cadences. Wareham did not hold back when it came to the ostensible hits. Both of his previous bands were well represented, and the two encores, including a sublime cover of Beat Happening’s “Indian Summer” and the haunting Galaxie 500 song “Strange,” brought the evening to a rapturous finish, with big smiles all around.

It’s safe to say that Dean & Co. don’t often run the risk of being upstaged by their opening acts, but last night, Boogarins four young Brazilians, truly set the place to buzzing. The band starts with the boogie rock of early ’70s power trios like Mountain and the James Gang and twists it into new forms via prog rock excursions and structured psych-rock jamming. Fronted by Fernando Almeida (who looks like a mix of Hendrix, Arthur Lee and Phil Lynott), the band communicates in looks, sly grins and less overt ways known only to bros. You can bet Boogarins will be playing bigger rooms next time they come to the Triangle.

No doubt they’ll be back because they have a solid connection here: It was Carrboro music maven Marc Sloop who stumbled across their music on BandCamp last year, became obsessed, and brought it to the attention of local singer-songwriter Gordon Zacharias of Fan Modine. Zacharias agreed so wholeheartedly that he is now the band’s manager.

Last night, before he could groove to his young charges, Zacharias and his latest lineup of Fan Modine opened the show with glinting British Invasion- flavored pop from their fine recent release, Cause Célèbre. Even a sustained wave of feedback couldn’t dampen the grin-inducing lilt of “Rich Girls in Wellingtons,” and its diabolically cheery hook, “make a horrible scream/ make a horrible scream.”