You might not expect airy dream-pop to draw a crowd of punks to the Turf Club on a Thursday night.
But that’s who gathered for Salt Lake City’s haunting and sincere Choir Boy, and on St. Patrick’s Day, appropriately enough. After all, lead singer Adam Klopp was a competitive Irish dancer till he was 16, and he’s displayed his skills on Instagram live—high kicks, tiny soft leather shoes and all.
I caught Choir Boy for the first time at the 7th St. Entry on my birthday weekend in 2019. I was ready to hit the Prince-themed dance party in the Mainroom when my partner suggested we check out the band next door. The earnestness and energy of this four-piece, which didn’t even have a live drummer, blew me away, but it was the sweet melancholy of Klopp’s voice that really got me. (I’ve called his broody vocals “vampiric” in the past, but that may be due to the power of suggestion: Choir Boy’s 2016 album, Passive With Desire, has two Halloweeny Draculas on the cover.) It was my party, and I’d cry if I wanted to. And oh did I.
Since then, Choir Boy—what Klopp was called when a punk band kicked him out for singing so cherubically—released their second (excellent) album, Gathering Swans, in May 2020—and we all know what happened next. Choir Boy was yet one more band whose rabid fans frothed at the mouth waiting for the pandemic to ease up just enough for them to tour. For my fellow rabid fans, our time was now, and the place was St. Paul.
One-woman show Riki kicked off the evening with her dark-wavey L.A. synth-pop. Her moodier, darker first self-titled album has made way for the dancier Gold, which at times even crosses over into sexy electro-Ren Faire territory. Her throaty vocals accentuated the pulsating synths that attested to her industrial-tinged background. She smiled and showcased her sweet demeanor, slithering from her keyboards to a mic stand while punctuating songs with hip gyrations and cheerleader-adjacent arm movements. She even busted out a melodica to perform the crowd favorite “Napoleon.”
We were all revved up when Choir Boy took the stage and slowly led us into “It’s Over.” Klopp, always an animated performer, whipped his polka-dot mesh-draped shoulders from side to side and jostled his body around the stage. Not one for banter, he led the band through songs at a steady clip as the audience sang smiling along to such bitter and pleading lyrics as “please leave me be, don’t follow me.” “Nites Like This” followed, with windchimes melting into the purr of a motorcycle, accelerating as aching, downtempo synths and springy, plinking guitar capture the sound of pure heartbreak.
“Hold me tight, as you and I fade to a memory, I reach out, I can’t dry your eyes,” Klopp sang as the guitar throbbed to a finish, then seamlessly transitioned into “Blood Moon,” another melancholy tune about reflecting on the misplaced joy of childhood. Highly relatable for a feelings-filled adult goth just trying to make it through each day in a really fucked up world! “I see my childhood rewound, I lost my happiness somehow”? Me too, brother. An additional highlight was watching keyboardist/human stringbean Jeff Kleinman swap his synths for a sax to honk out some haunting moans.
But it wasn’t all drear. On “Eat The Frog” the bass bounded along with a galloping drumbeat, and slices of atmospheric Cure-reminiscent guitar. Here Klopp’s vocals swung from downright ghoulish to something so balanced and melodic that it thoroughly explained the band’s name. During the encore, “Complainer,” an exhilarating guitar lead teeter-tottered along to the drum machine’s staccato claps. On the final chorus, Klopp’s already high vocals pitched up to a near-falsetto as he sang self-deprecatingly about brushing aside his personal discomfort because there are worse things in the world—ouch, too real in 2022. Someone please tell him that it can be both!
Choir Boy blends vulnerability and introspection into something danceable. I can always count on them to move me, whether their heartfelt lyrics and nearly tactile sounds emotionally eviscerate me or lead me to jovially bounce along in the living room with my cats. Last night, it just felt so good to get sweaty and dance in a crowd again with friends and strangers. Like many, I’ve been missing the collective energy that live music brings, and the sweet nostalgia offered by the music of Choir Boy felt like just the right show to feed my cautious optimism that someday we might be able to return to something like the pre-‘rona before times. Till then, Choir Boy gives us an outlet to both dance and lament.
Leave Me Be
Nites Like This
Eat the Frog