Dan Boeckner's Post-Punk Operators Anthems Get Fans Dancing at L.A. Concert

Dan Boeckner from Wolf Parade
Jenny Regan

Dan Boeckner photographed on March 24, 2016. 

Following the recent announcement that Wolf Parade’s hiatus has ended and the band will perform its first shows in five years, including an appearance at this year’s FYF Fest, singer-guitarist Dan Boeckner (also of Divine Fits, Atlas Strategic and Handsome Furs) performed at the Bootleg Bar on Saturday, April 9, to showcase his other band, Operators. Audience members at this sold-out show warmly greeted the band, with one fan crying out to Boeckner, “I love you!” To which the prolific musician joked, “I love you too -- but I feel like we might be related.”

Considering the number of acts Boeckner has been involved in, it’s a marvel to witness the seeming ease with which he transitions his sound. In the case of Operators, it’s rock infused with dance music, or self-described “analog post-punk,” as synth player Devojka holds equal importance to drummer Sam Brown. Despite the show taking place at the Bootleg Bar (a smaller room in comparison to the next-door theater), the concertgoers still made use of the minimal space to dance. And with the contagious beat of the music, it was hard to stand still.

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Throughout the night, the onstage banter was kept to a minimum, with Boeckner thanking the audience several times. At one point, he simply said: “This is f---ing awesome!” He then added, “I could say more eloquent things, but let’s f---ing play this song,” shifting his attention back to the task at hand. The setlist comprised of tracks from Operators’ debut album Blue Wave, whose title track Billboard has described as introducing “itself with frothy synth strokes” and reeling “you in with some unexpected sax that's smooth enough to sound like it could’ve come off the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City soundtrack.” 

The band members’ camaraderie onstage was apparent, and Boeckner made it a point to introduce each of the musicians individually. When introducing drummer Brown (also of Divine Fits and New Bomb Turks), Boeckner declared, “Appalachian Thunder! I just made that name up for you. That’s your name now,” in reference to Brown’s long, curly hair and beard. “That’s where he’s from -- hill country,” Boeckner told the crowd.

Devojka joined in on the teasing by adding, “Sam had a much more important role to play other than drums tonight for making this evening super magical, and that is he knows somebody who plays the sax.” She went on, “Your drumming is great, but Bradley's the saxophone player …” Brown took the ribbing in stride, laughing along to the jokes.

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Although a few technical difficulties affected the set, including a monitor that wasn’t working early on, the band members took it all on with humor. When Devojka’s mic would not stand upright, she said, “This doesn’t usually happen. Maybe we can take 10 minutes.” To which Boeckner replied, without missing a beat, “Let’s just not talk about it. Let’s just watch some television and maybe…” As a sound technician came onstage to fix the mic, he added: “Hey, guys, it’s Rena! She’s our sound fluffer.”

As the night neared its conclusion, Boeckner commented that he used to live in L.A. “But I had to go back to Soviet Canuckistan,” referring to Pat Buchanan’s 2002 epithet for Canada. He added with affection, “I love this place a lot.” Judging by the energetic atmosphere in this small venue and the enthusiastic response from the crowd, it was clear that the love was reciprocal.