Lead Son Matthew Emilio Garcia has broken one of the unwritten rules for concerts before he’s sung a note: He takes the stage wearing his own band’s T-shirt. He soon clears himself of any suspicions of narcissism, however, by continually seeking audience approval. By the third or fourth time Garcia asks “Seriously, Retox, how are you doing tonight?” he seems downright insecure.
But it’s hard to blame him. The setup at Retox doesn’t allow for much audience participation beyond applause and some polite hollering. A large stage occupies premium floor space, and the forceful sound system discourages lengthy conversations, but clusters of tables leave little room for adoring fans to storm the stage. For most of this night, in fact, the only spectator standing awkwardly in the narrow aisle between the stage and the tables is a certain clueless music journalist who keeps obstructing the waitresses.
But Garcia’s multiple attempts at mood-gauging aside, the Sons’ fun, likable, and immediately engaging rock plays well in the laid-back bar atmosphere. “We don’t know any covers,” Garcia jokes, but with an infectious set list employing plenty of hand claps and “whoas,” the Sons hardly need another band’s songs to get attention. Seated or not, the band’s tight and surprisingly quick-moving 16-song set is pretty hard to ignore, especially when Garcia’s shouting into a megaphone.
The plastic voice-amplification device makes only a brief appearance — to project Garcia’s anti-politics rant over guitarist Freddy’s heavy noodling on opener “Duopoly” — but Garcia’s apparently invested in a vocalist prop variety pack that also includes a guiro and a Vibra-Slap. But they’ve got more than gimmicks to keep the audience interested. Potential single “Damien” is demonically catchy, setting Garcia’s smartass kiss-off over a simple reggae-lite stomp, and the goofy “One Night Stand” draws exactly the response you’d expect in a room full of intoxicated couples anticipating last call.