Muted blue light cast down on the crestfallen face of Alan Thomas, the guitarist and main vocalist of the rising indie duo joan. As the eclectic sound of joan’s synth-pop music began to fill the space of U Street Music Hall, they showcase their unparalleled bond with each other and ability to form a meaningful connection with the audience.
As Thomas finally gazed upward into the anticipating crowd, he murmured the first lyrics to the track “drive all night.” Energy rippled through the crowd as the song progressed from smooth new wave vocals to an energized interplay of drums and guitar at the song’s climax, demonstrating the group’s technical ability.
This first song concluded with Thomas serenading the audience with “I wanna be alone with you / Follow the moonlight” while the tinged blue light replicated the luminance of the moon, cultivating a feeling of wistful, late-night dreaming.
joan, an up-and-coming alt-pop duo from Little Rock, Ark., served as the opener to the better-known indie band flor as they aim to establish themselves in the indie-pop landscape. This rising duo, Alan Thomas and Steven Rutherford, formed only two years ago with the release of their single “take me on.” Several singles and one debut EP later, joan’s growing presence in the music scene harkens to the sound like that of LANY and The 1975.
joan followed their first song with “tokyo,” which also incorporated 80s-inspired synth beats and the gentle vocals of Thomas. Building off of the growing energy from the audience, joan dove into “stop and stare.” The introduction of red-toned lighting emulated the intensifying energy of both joan’s sound and their connection with the audience.
During this song, Thomas performed his first guitar solo of the night, approaching the crowd and touting the black bandana decorating his electric guitar. This solo broke away from his previously more reserved, composed persona, bringing a sense of mischief and vivacity to his performance.
The song “all the way” transformed the show, offering a high-energy change of pace, as Rutherford’s beats matched Thomas’ more animated persona. Green and pink tones fused together as the lights flashed, and the crowd erupted when Thomas gave a grin in the final chorus of the song.
After this, joan transitioned into a new sound, diverging from their new wave inspiration to embrace a more current, alternative take on the genre. Rather than gentle, fluid synth beats, joan brought a more jagged sound with interrupting cowbells and more accentuated drums to the stage. The change illustrated the broader range of joan and teased out what new sounds may come with the debut of future songs.
The group also showcased unreleased music during their concert with “lose your mind.” Thomas displayed his musical prowess while shifting from guitar to piano during the duration of the song. The final chorus included a guitar solo accompanied by Rutherford’s drums, giving the audience a chance to see the synergy between Thomas and Rutherford onstage as instrumentalists. Both musicians played with a shared intensity, creating a bond that supported the lively and jovial performance.
After the crowd’s applause subsided, joan wrapped up their concert with a slower, more intimate sound. The first ballad of the night, “i loved you first,” brought the audience into a gentle sway as the pure vocals of Thomas echoed through the concert space. The classic narrative of lost love took on deeper meaning as the open space was enveloped in a sea of blue lighting, reminiscent of the first song of the night’s ambiance. Thomas’ melancholic lyrics, backed by a subdued backing beat and pensive tone, offered a sense of shared somberness and represented the most reflective point of the set.
With the conclusion of the serenade, joan expressed their thanks to the audience. The anticipation for their final song grew as Thomas and Rutherford shared one last glance before the beginning notes of “take me on” began. The stage lit up with kaleidoscope designs, incorporating the hues of each of the previous light designs and illuminating both the stage and the music with a vibrant tone.
Thomas performed his last guitar solo to a roaring crowd with an exuberance marking the musician’s final act. Finishing with the group’s debut hit, joan paid tribute to their successful start and offered hope toward their promising future.
The Little Rock duo amazed in their performance this weekend at U Street Music Hall, demonstrating both their musical talent and ability to connect with audience members. Their music, drawing on new wave as well as original sounds brought alive by the duo’s infectious chemistry, proves a meaningful addition to the ever-growing genre of indie pop.