Mixing Uppers and Downers at Chronic Town

Like the roller coaster concoction, Four Loko, a mixture of spastic lo-fi and coffeehouse acoustic filled the dungeon-esque walls of Chronic Town last night.

Buzz-band Emperor X and ambient singer-songwriter Annalisa Barron took to the stage for a show sponsored by the Lion 90.7-FM, Roustabout!, and Students Organizing the Multiple Arts (SOMA).

Barron opened and combined Route 66 blues riffs and Regina Spektor-like vocal harmonies to trick the crowd into thinking someone laced their hookahs with Oxycontin.

Hazy glow of LED lights through plumes of cigarette smoke perfectly ebbed with Annalisa Barron’s muffled tone and spontaneous bouts of raspy high notes. She danced through riffs of gentle finger picking on a pale wood acoustic but busted out a ukelele for a song chronicling travel stories where she was “that person in line for a plane playing a ukelele.”

The chorus rang out her wanderings tales with the line “my love is coming to town.”

In one song she was even accompanied by a cello player. The bass notes rumbled like a passing train while the high notes rang with the feeling of a Gothic cathedral–all while Annalisa Barron moaned soulful vocal arrangements.

The married scent of double apple shisha and craft brewed teas only furthered the relaxed atmosphere of kids in ugly sweaters, drinking Coke from glass bottles. However, the true downer (I say that with all due respect) was the bone-tingling melodies escaping from Annalisa’s guitar.

Noisy guitar buzz and pounding bass drums broke the calm of Annalisa Barron’s performance once fringe indie band Emperor X took the stage. A chaotic culmination of estranged groans and screeches, spacey synthesizer, and the unusual addition of a trombone made listening to Emperor X feel like self-inducing an aneurysm that kind of got you off.

Operating through noise and rumbles, the lead vocalist looped falsetto woos and bassy do-wops. When screaming in or away from the mic, however, his voice had the stale refinements of a pre-Simple Math Andy Hull.

The lyricism followed Emperor X’s nerdy style with lines about oxygen, RNA, the LSATs and Shariah Law. The I Got Picked On In High School appeal also bled out into between-song conversations about the Hebrew language and an odd fascination with “nerd alley” or Fraser Street downtown.

“That’s where the comic book store and the D and D place is, right?” asked the lead vocalist before comically adding, “they had to stop me from going in there.”

Emperor X created a lull in the storm with a group chant of the repeated word, “together,” and an echoing thump of drum sticks on a snare and an empty guitar case. And we were together–a crowd huddled Indian style, chain smoking and bobbing to the haunting rhythm.

Where Annalisa Barron’s style was best described by the Lion 90.7-FM’s Ryan Kappy as “fucking soothing,” Emperor X made you constantly itch for a cigarette dipped in codeine. The concoction, unlike in Four Lokos case, is not going to make you wake up pantsless. The clash of genres and moods actually worked really well like a car crash you can’t turn away from.

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