The last time I saw Devonte Hynes, currently the one-man indie-folk band called Lightspeed Champion, was in November 2005, when his band at the time, Test Icicles, played the Cake Shop in New York. Test Icicles’ music was varied — noise, pop-punk, pop — and the band broke up after releasing its debut, For Screening Purposes Only, in 2006. Hynes struck out on his own, but many things remain the same. Small venue? Check. Gaudy eyeglasses? Check. Strange attire? Check. Acoustic guitar? WTF?
There’s something empty about a musician’s style shifting radically and quickly. And it often leads to ridicule. Sam Endicott, for example, frontman for the Interpol-aping band the Bravery, was mocked when people found out he sported dreads in a ska band called Skabba the Hut.
Before a sold-out crowd on March 8 at Union Pool, the crimson-lit stage was like Hynes’s own personal judgment day. The man who previously flaunted hot pink while screeching out was playing the softer-sounding tracks off his Lightspeed Champion debut, Falling off the Lavender Bridge (Domino). This was one of a handful of acoustic shows Lightspeed had scheduled, and it’s where I really would have expected him to prove that he was more than just a Saddle Creek product.
“Nice hat,” shouted one fan to the shoulder-shrugging Hynes, who dutifully pushed up his glasses and smiled. It wasn’t a “Fuck you,” and it wasn’t the same juvenile Hynes. It was a mature, older, wiser facade of the thrash-metal guitarist.
Songs like “Happy Birthday,” “Galaxy of the Lost,” and “No Surprise” rolled effortlessly off the production line. Similar and vague, there was something divorced of Hynes’s music. When seeing the Test Icicles, you knew you were watching a bunch of kids fucking around. When seeing Lightspeed, it’s like watching your friend’s dad succumb to a midlife crisis as he tries to get his old band back together.
Lightspeed’s cover of the Strokes’ “Heart in a Cage” was the only thing that didn’t feel entrapping and forced about the show. The song “Everyone I Know Is Listening to Crunk” was so silent and hollow that I wrote my own lyrics to the melody: “Everything Dev says between song breaks is about South by Southwest.”
His hit single, “Tell Me What It’s Worth,” raised the question: What’s it worth to jump to a different ship? Is integrity lost? Does cash rule everything around me?
I guess we’ll have to cross that lavender bridge when we get to it.