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Petaluma’s KPCA FM goes ‘darkwave’ for inaugural stage show

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PLANNING TO GO?

What: KPCA LIVE Presents an evening of music at The Phoenix Theater, featuring NRVS LVRS, The Y Axes, New Spell, and Flour Flour.

When: Saturday, June 30, 8 p.m. (doors open at 7:30 p.m.)

Where: The Phoenix Theater, 201 Washington St.

Admission: $10.

There’s a first time for everything.

That includes a first time for certain words on certain marquees. This weekend, the iconic Phoenix Theater marquee is displaying, for the first time in Petaluma, the words, “KPCA Live.” Those eight characters will presumably soon be followed by others.

“NRVS LVRS” (already there), “The Y Axes,” “New Spell,” and “Flour Flour.”

Though all of that might look like a series of problems on a high school spelling and grammar test, those are, in fact, the four first-rate musical acts that will be playing this weekend at the inaugural KPCA Live Presents show, a co-production of the Phoenix and Petaluma’s new community radio station, KPCA (found on the airwaves at 103.3 FM, and streaming online at www.kpca.fm).

“This is the first ever big music show like this for KPCA,” explains event organizer Phil Lehman-Brown, co-host of KPCA’s Thursday evening show “Phil and Ariel’s Mixtape,” which he produces with his wife, Ariel Elizabeth. “We know Tom Gaffe, of course, ’cause I grew up going to shows at the Phoenix. And he’s been co-hosting the station’s annual ‘The Envelope Please’ fundraiser. We’ve wanted to find new ways to work together, so presenting this show at the Phoenix just makes a lot of sense.”

In some ways, the upcoming concert — taking place Saturday, June 30, at 8 p.m. — is like a live, onstage version of “Phil and Ariel’s Mixtape.” Airing Thursdays from 5-7 p.m., the program is described by Lehman-Brown as, “Music we love, but that most people aren’t used to hearing on the radio. Our tastes lean toward rock and electronica, but we like all kinds of things. And we love sharing it with our listeners.”

In addition to introducing and playing rarely- heard, up-and-coming bands and musicians, Lehman-Brown and Elizabeth do live interviews with the folks who make the music, and often program shows along eccentric themes, such as Songs Suggested by Random Words — ‘Freedom,” for example — or Songs That Start with the Letter A. For this weekend’s live show at the Phoenix, Lehman-Brown just did what he does every week.

“I’ve basically programmed four up-and-coming bands that I’ve discovered recently, whose music we’ve been playing a lot on the show,” he says. “We’ve had some of these groups on as guests, and we really like them a lot. And we think our listeners — and whoever else shows up — will like them a lot, too.”

A quick visit to the various Facebook pages and websites for the groups in the line-up reveals one interesting thing they all have in common, aside from clearly being electronica-influenced. They all refer to themselves, not as “bands,” but as “projects.”

NRVS LVRS (pronounced Nervous Lovers) is the spacy, dreamy, distinctly sexy musical project of husband-and-wife duo Andrew Gomez and Bevin Fernandez of San Francisco, who name musicians like Kate Bush and Massive Attack as important inspirations. Formed in 2014, NRVS LVRS immediately found a place in the dance clubs and out-of-the-way music venues of the Bay Area. Their 2015 debut album “The Golden West’ won instant critical acclaim, and was applauded by SF Weekly, describing their music as “crepuscular and opaque, with a grimy layer to it that thinly disguises the vein of pop running through the songs.”

Also based in San Francisco — with a musical style that is similarly described as “dreamy” and “ethereal” — The Y Axes employ orchestral synth sounds to blend with their decidedly rock-influenced, dramatically intense tunes that often rise to the level of emotionally rich anthems. The musicians of New Spell, self-described as “dark indie pop with female vocals,” play with a dynamic energy that is captivating, beautiful, a bit strange, and a tad cerebral, with impressively lyrical tunes composed by songwriter-vocalist Leanne Kelly.

PLANNING TO GO?

What: KPCA LIVE Presents an evening of music at The Phoenix Theater, featuring NRVS LVRS, The Y Axes, New Spell, and Flour Flour.

When: Saturday, June 30, 8 p.m. (doors open at 7:30 p.m.)

Where: The Phoenix Theater, 201 Washington St.

Admission: $10.

The fourth group — oops, “project” — on the bill is Flour Flour.

Originating in Idaho, Flour Flour rises from the musical partnership of two lifelong friends, Brian Baughn and Phil Wright. Currently based in the Bay Area, the twosome create thick, flowing, synth-heavy curtains of music, with songs that reveal the influences of experimental pioneers like Talking Heads, Radiohead — and even a bit of the soul-stirring heartache of Joni Mitchell.

Asked to describe any other unifying themes or sounds that unite this quartet of acts, Lehman-Brown slips into the knowledgeable, deep insider, slightly nerdy on-air repartee he displays on his radio show.

“In the Bay Area, there are all kinds of music scenes,” he begins, “and one of those scenes, which is kind of characterized by a dreamy electro-pop sound, is what some people call Darkwave. It’s a little hard to describe, but Darkwave is about synths blended with live instruments, and lyrics that are usually pretty abstract, all mixed in with some fun, pop-rock-punk elements, and strong vocals that are always pretty haunting and … I said ‘dreamy’ already, right? Well, Darkwave is dreamy stuff. And, yeah, a little dark. And I really like it.”

KPCA Live Presents, he points out, is not a fundraiser for the station so much as it’s a chance to promote the mission of KPCA, and to let more people in the community know what’s going on at 93.3 FM. Tickets sales from the show will go to help the Phoenix continue its own mission of providing a space for local youth to gather, listen to music, and express themselves through the arts.

“Nonprofits need to find ways to team up and support each other,” says Lehman-Brown. “This is our way of supporting the Phoenix, while getting the name of the radio station out there to a wider audience.”

To that end, not only will Phil be present to host portions of the show, attendees can expect to see some of their other favorite KPCA radio programmers on stage as well.

“The plan is for myself and Ariel and a number of other KPCA hosts to take turns introducing the bands,” says Lehman-Brown. “Then we’ll just see how it goes. I’m open to doing these all the time. I think these live shows could become a regular thing. As long as KPCA is happy with it, I already know I want to keep doing this.”

(Send comments to Community Editor David templeton at david.templeton@arguscourier.com or call him at 707-776-8462)