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Microwave, Oso Oso, Delta Sleep and Mothé Heat Up El Rey

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Post-hardcore band Microwave headlined a sold-out show at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles on April 11. The band was supported by indie rock musician Mothé, math rock band Delta Sleep and pop-punk outfit Oso Oso. The show was just one of 22 dates on the four’s North America spring tour in support of Microwave’s seventh anniversary reissue of their breakout album “Much Love.”

From roughly 7-11 p.m., attendees were treated to an eclectic array of tracks, both old and new — a celebration of what made the bands who they are today and a signifier of who they will be. 

Mothé, the solo act of Los Angeles’ own Spencer Fort, started the night off with a blast of fun, high-energy indie rock. Supported by a full band and a set of crutches, they played songs from their 2022 debut “I Don’t Want You To Worry Anymore,” like “Debt Collector.” 

Over distorted guitars and a simple drum beat, Fort describes a lover who takes without giving, through lyrics such as, “So then how come you only ever want to bring me down? / How come it’s every single time you come around?” Through a blend of their catchy melodies and full-hearted crowd work, Mothé won over an audience who likely didn’t know who they were prior to the show, successfully warming them up for the night’s later bands. After their set, Fort made their way directly through the crowd to the merch stand, where they hung out with fans, signing merch and taking pictures.

Brighton, U.K.-based band Delta Sleep took the stage next, foreshadowing the rest of the night’s sound. Their brand of somber, complex math rock won the crowd over as early as their second song, “Lake Sprinkle Sprankle” from their 2015 album “Twin Galaxies.”  Though one might think its alternating time signatures — 5/8, 7/8 and 4/4 — would make it “unmosh-able,” it at least resulted in universal head bobbing, even if many of the attempts were out of time. A couple of people even entered the pit in attempts to mosh, though they were looked at in disdain by others. The idea of moshing was, despite a majority of the bands being emo-adjacent, oddly contentious — an issue that would come to a head during Oso Oso’s set. 

Their final track was “El Pastor,” another fan favorite from their 2018 album “Ghost City.” Like “Lake Sprinkle Sprankle,” the track features a lot of their trademark sounds: atypical rhythms, complex lead play and angst-dripping singing from lead-singer Devin Yüceil. Drummer Blake Mostyn drove the rhythm, and his drumming shifted the track’s feel through sudden and disorienting play during the beginning of the track, a disco beat during parts meant to be smoother and silence during parts meant to feel more contained. By the end of the track, a large portion of the pit was moshing and having a great time, though common perceptions of math rock would have predicted otherwise. Like Mothé before, Yüceil, Mostyn, and lead guitarist Glen Hodgson made their way to the merch stand after the expedited, 35 minute set, where they then helped fans check out, signed what they bought and took pictures with them.

Next to take the stage was Long Beach, New York’s Oso Oso, led by core member Jade Lilitri. Like many sets prior, they entered with a silly, popular dad-rock song. Though the exact song choice could be viewed as trivial, the track ultimately set the tone for the rest of Oso Oso’s set: fun and as lighthearted as emo can be. Oso Oso’s touring bassist and guitarist met this standard, with the bassist providing the lightheartedness through his tie-dye shirt that read “Customize Your Own Font” and the guitarist providing the fun through his electric stage presence.

Their first song was “computer exploder,” the lead track off of “sore thumb,” their most recent album. The song was created by Lilitri and frequent collaborator Tavish Maloney, who tragically passed away at 24 in 2021. A blueprint for how emo-pop should be, Lilitri paired melancholic lyrics like “Nothing goes quite like I planned it / Think I took your love for granted / Little row boat / Captain of my own Titanic / These pills make me feel gigantic” with a simple, high energy tandem of guitar, drums and bass. This mix made the song consumable on a sound level, qualifying it as pop, while still maintaining, through the lyrics, its emo qualities. The song started with Lilitri singing over simple electric guitar upstrokes, and both parts crescendoed into a cacophony of sound at the end of the first verse, with a subsequent hard stop and resuming of the song. This is in contrast to the album version, which has Lilitri accompanied in the beginning, almost in a Wilco-esque manner, by only an acoustic guitar and drums. 

The final act to play was Atlanta post-hardcore band Microwave, fronted by Nathan Hardy. Their first song was their most recent release, “Ferrari,” which came out on March 16. Unlike the single version, the song started with bassist Tyler Hill playing the synth and Hardy coming on stage after the rest of the band to sing. The song, defined in a statement by the band as being “about coming to terms with your fears and not allowing them to dictate how you act” represents the individuality and nonconformity so common in the post-hardcore scene, general emo scene  and all eras of emo and punk preceding the two. 

With the song featuring only Hill’s moody synth play and Hardy, singing lyrics such as, “There are a thousand million ways to drive / That nail into its hole / To keep running in place / Cause it’s a bit more comfortable / And peeling back the veil from that / Illusion of control,” its sound was a far cry from the typical guitar-driven post-hardcore that the band is known for. One could either argue that they chose the song because it was their most recent or that it could be a statement regarding the type of music they are looking to create in the future.

The rest of the set was more of the high-energy post-hardcore for which the band is known. Hardy and Hill’s electric yet contained energy was reflected by guitarist (and brother to Tyler) Travis Hill and drummer Timothy “Tito” Pittard, whose gunshot-like drum play made it seem as if he was going to break his drum heads each time he hit them. 

As the band continued on through their set, the moshes only grew larger and more energetic, a sign that Microwave was winning the crowd over. So positive was the reaction that, midway through the set, Hardy remarked “this is already the best Los Angeles show we’ve ever played,” to which the crowd responded with claps and cheers.

Later on, after announcing they had two songs left, the band played the audio of the monkey fight scene in “2001: A Space Odyssey” — almost as though calling everyone to put their all into moshing for the rest of the set. The songs, “Trash Stains” and “Vomit,” finished the set on a high note, with the latter further showcasing the softer side of Hardy’s impressive vocal ability — his falsetto whispers that balance out his full-bodied screams.

With the two highest-billed bands both being in times of transition — Microwave having not released an album of originals since 2019 and Oso Oso in the wake of losing one of its greatest collaborators — the night was a positive signifier of the creative directions that the bands could take. Oso Oso’s post-Maloney tracks fit in with the rest of their set and Microwave’s foray into more somber, electronically driven music was well received. Each of the bands will only continue to grow and find themselves throughout this North America tour, which should, as shown by the night’s show, find an end in some great music.


June Min is an Arts & Entertainment Intern for the spring 2023 quarter. He can be reached at junehm@uci.edu.