Punk teens in jester face paint wrapped around the block of the Regency Ballroom on the night of Nov. 30, waiting in anticipation to see alt-rock mainstay The Garden.
Since their debut in 2011, the Orange County band has amassed a loyal following of fans who are drawn in by their unique experimental mystique and ever-evolving sound. Even within the scope of punk intensity, twins Wyatt and Fletcher Shears have explored the fullest range of the genre. In some places industrial, in others headbanging and circusy, their discography remains distinct, with songs blending smoothly when placed alongside each other.
Intense, exhilarating and gritty, The Garden opened its show with refined roughness. As the screech of a metallic laugh echoed throughout the venue, the twins exploded into their first song “Haunted House on Zillow,” appearing ghostly under flashes of green lightning. Lost in their respective whirlwinds of chaos, Fletcher on drums and Wyatt shredding on the bass and singing, the brothers seemed almost inhuman. The opening songs blurred together breathlessly as the twins played track after track, not even pausing to address their clown-painted, crowd-surfing audience.
During “What Else Could I Be But A Jester,” Fletcher stepped away from his post behind the drumset to scream-sing and dance alongside his brother and the giant inflatable jester looming behind them onstage. Staggering around, fast-paced and frenzied like stop motion under strobe lights, they encapsulated the goofy “trickster” energy that inspired the song. This electricity was immediately contrasted by the slower-paced but just as loud “Lurkin’,” Fletcher’s raspy slur grating over Wyatt’s crisp, over-enunciated vocals.
It is impressive enough to frontline with just bass, but Wyatt took it even further by proving the vast possibilities for this instrument. “Horseshit on Route 66” was especially memorable for its country twang. Guttural and deep, Wyatt’s voice wavered alongside the curl of the strings as he sang the tour-unique intro jam before plucking the immediately invigorating bass riff that makes the song so catchy.
Though touring for their fifth studio album of the same name, released Sept. 8, the duo delighted fans with some of its old hits, including “Egg,” evocative and awash in deep blue, and “Call the Dogs Out,” during which Fletcher tossed his drumsticks in the air and caught them effortlessly. Swinging the empty mic stand at his side, Wyatt shoved the microphone at the audience as the oversaturated sound effects of “:(” rolled across the stage, the familiar “tap tap tap briiinnngg!” of the recorded phone just as instrumentally resounding as the bass and drums.
Exhilaration culminated with “Thy Mission,” The Garden’s final pre-encore song. As the brothers shouted out the opening words “Scum shit, dumb shit,” flashing white lights matched the clash of the drums. As the brothers thrashed onstage, thrilling catharsis built until it blew up, erupting into a thunderous exaltation as they slunk offstage.
When the Shears emerged to begin their encore, they let out a slurred shout, “F— yoouuu!” With Fletcher off the drums again and back beside Wyatt, the two committed to chaos. They sang and stumbled symmetrically, both with the same long dirty blonde hair and lean hunched stature like someone had hit copy and paste.
“If you’ve got one in your back pocket, throw it up, if you’ve got one in your stomach, throw it up! This song’s called ‘Banana Peel!’ ” Wyatt yelled as the flat buzz of the intro began to scrape across the stage, “And awaayyyyyy….we go!”
The song, with its harsh push and pull and its pounding, intoxicating energy, was perfectly tailored to close the show. As it decelerated, The Garden exited the stage, leaving behind a crowd sweaty from moshing, and the screech of the bass ringing ever so faintly in the air.