This Tuesday a cold rain fell over Lawrence. Dreary haze and frigid puddles scattered the streets, but the cozy confines of the Bottleneck told a different story. Lush, warm tunes filled the venue from three markedly unique, yet fantastic bands.
Junior Mesa piled on stage, carrying heaps of fun energy with them. Five obvious buddies on tour, they were full of spirit and excitement to put on a show for us. From inviting a random dude on stage to having the crowd sing happy birthday to their bassist (it wasn’t his birthday), Junior Mesa had fun when they wanted to and played good music when they needed to. Their set was a great mix of bright indie garage rock and chill mellow jams. Overall a great start to a great concert.
Next up was Jordanna, making her first appearance in Lawrence since opening for TV Girl in 2021. I couldn’t make it to said show, but people who did would sometimes sing the praises of Jordanna more than the main act. I get why.
Now accompanied by a backing band, she had so much to offer in terms of variety. Her vocal quality and holding notes were standout features of her set and a sweet guitar shred in the middle of the track “Why Do”was a fantastic addition.
Then came Inner Wave. The set began while the stage was obscured in a thick fog, their neon orange sign beaming through the mist. If you’ve listened to the Inner Wave you’re probably familiar with their spacy style, ridden with clean synths and tight beats. Their music and hazy stage gave the impression our audience was watching their show in a low cloud over late-night city lights. But to say the show was dream-like would be a disservice to how visceral it was.
The whole performance was tidy. Clean stage, snappy outfits, dynamic lighting, tight music. Their synths were punchy and lush, perfectly complimented by smooth guitar and fantastic vocals from frontman Pablo Sotelo.
The track “Take 3” was everything I wanted from a live version of one of my favorite songs from them. They perfectly captured the melancholy, almost eerie vibe of the song and leaned into it. It gave me chills. I was also happy to see Jordanna return to the stage to accompany Inner Wave to perform their song “Baby”, released earlier this year. The ballad was sweet and performed with a lot of heart. Fantastic contrast to some of their icier tracks.
An Inner Wave cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” was something I never thought I needed to hear until it blessed my ears during the encore. They drew upon R&B qualities of their ensemble that I never expected. It was funky, it was soulful but it was still Inner Wave. Also, Sotelo killed it, I think Al would approve.
I love the musical and visual direction that Inner Wave has taken since the release of their most recent album, Apoptosis in 2021. They have leaned into the spacier, more psychedelic side of their sound and I think the payoff has been immense. Their visual aesthetic is equal parts futuristic and retro with stripped-down design elements reminiscent of the 60s or 70s. You can see this in their album art, merch and most notably the incandescent orange neon sign which was omnipresent during their entire set. Inner Wave uses visuals to perfectly complement their music and vice versa, something not lost on stage.
As they continually evolve and grow, Inner Wave has heightened and evolved a style of music that saturates the indie genre. If you are able to attend one of their concerts, do yourself a favor and go. I’m excited to see where they go next.