The men of Cold Cave don’t give a HOOT about the heatwave you’ve been complaining about all summer (not a HOOT, to reiterate). To prove their ambivalence toward the sun and its powers, they took to the stage at Washington’s Rock & Roll Hotel on a blistering August evening, clad in their usual uniform of leather jackets and all black. These guys! You could be forgiven for a moment of panic—Cold Cave’s world is a pretty serious one, full of melodrama and melancholy, where stars are constantly exploding. But frontman Wes Eisold drops the Ian Curtis shtick live, choosing not to hide the fact that he actually enjoys himself from time to time, mugging at the audience and grinning in between lines about meaningless futures and black, black hearts. Dude gets it.
After all, it takes a sense of humor to write a song for your nouveau-goth band called “Icons of Summer”. Cold Cave opened with that track, a good way to showcase the difference between the band as recording artist and the band as live performers. On record, Cold Cave blends chugging guitars and new wave basslines into their maximal electronics. Live, the only analog instrument onstage is a drum kit, leaving Eisold and sidekick Dominick Fernow to bounce around stage with minimal interruption from their synths and keyboards.
A good thing, too. “Icons of Summer,” already a standout jam on Cherish the Light Years, became even bigger in a live setting. Fernow quickly proved himself the band’s secret weapon, all stormtrooper haircut and combat boots, dancing so fast and so hard that you might wonder if the band keeps a paramedic on their rider in case his heart explodes on any given night. He kept that momentum—and, more impressively, the leather jacket—on all night, serving as Puff Daddy-grade hypeman to Eisold’s more remote rock star.
Older tracks like “Theme From Tomorrowland” and “I’ve Seen the Future and It’s No Place for Me” benefited from the beefier sound of Cold Cave’s current live setup, with Eisold’s voice sounding particularly strong throughout. “Tomorrowland,” for example, let him belt the verse clear and strong, rather than imitate the muddy production on the album version. “Future” saw him plunge into the audience, where he was received like a sweat-covered saint. Otherwise, he and his band plowed through less-expected cuts from Light Years. “Villains of the Moon” and “Burning Sage” made it onto the setlist, while the band’s most anthemic material, “The Great Pan is Dead” and “Underworld USA” did not. Disappointing, yes, but it was difficult to fault the band while they poured their sweat and hearts out onstage. “Catacombs” provided a final singalong for the evening, and the crowd clearly could’ve kept pogo-ing for another hour. Next time, guys. Bring your leather.