This past Thursday brought Baroque pop star Jonathan Bree to Soda Bar for an encore performance following his Desert Daze debut. Joined by Ryder the Eagle for the final leg of his North American Fall 2019 tour and adding local support from Oak Palace, Jonathan Bree capped a fantastic night of music, putting on his stellar stage show for a rapt audience fully prepared for what was in store. Touring on the success of 2018’s Sleepwalking for the last year hasn’t left Jonathan much time to run his Lil’ Chief record label, but thankfully printings of all three of his solo releases were available at the merch table that evening.
Oak Palace has one foot in San Diego and one foot in Tijuana and got everyone else’s feet to the dance floor with their solidly groovy rock’n’roll sound, reminiscent of Francisco the Man. Six of their eight feet clad in Panam Zapatos Deportivos, the band rocked throughout their set, getting the already engaged crowd to close the gap between them and the stage. The group positively brimmed with excitement, feeding off of each other and the enthusiastic energy of the room, with Nate the drummer literally popping off his stool as he kept time.
San Diego Freak Out DJ Mikey Turi kept the vibe going with his oldies-centric set while Oak Palace gathered their belongings and exited the stage, leaving behind a single mic and one tiny, red MP3 player. Ryder the Eagle quickly took to the stage, pressed play, and immediately had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Though Ryder’s heartfelt crooning and deadpan delivery seem to indicate a soulful earnestness to his songs, his lyrics continually caught the audience by surprise, widening their eyes in disbelief at what they’d just heard.
Ryder never broke character nor acknowledged their incredulous, nervous laughter, even as he revealed his desire for a green card marriage, sharing his personal phone number and entreating a beautiful lady (any lady) to volunteer to keep him in the US…or at least offer a couch to crash on that evening. Asking if he should remove his glasses, his jacket, his shirt, Ryder never waited for a response, progressively stripping down, finally revealing his eagle chest tattoo and leaping atop a bar table to perform his penultimate number before returning to the stage one last time.
After preparing the Soda Bar stage with red light strips, setting the mood as well as maximizing the visibility of the edge of the stage, Jonathan Bree and his masked band appeared from the makeshift green room (the bar’s store room), eschewing the usual Soda Bar entrance through the exit. They immediately established an unearthly presence due to their lack of faces, with the band in white Zentai-like spandex masks while the dancers were allowed small eye-holes in their more rigid blank masks, assisting their vision but maintaining the aesthetic. The genius of the look was completed with the band’s bowl-cut black wigs and the dancer’s bonnets, creating a sharply dressed look with a sinister undercurrent. Performing their songs with their videos projected behind them, Jonathan Bree’s group evoked a 60’s variety show fever dream, merging their easy-listening tunes with their decidedly uneasy appearance.
Audience participation was mostly limited to more enraptured observation, although during one number the dancer’s presented a couple audience members with roses while Jonathan plucked and threw roses into the crowd before eventually tossing the remainder of the bouquet out. Reaching the end of their preplanned set, the band returned to their would-be green room, leaving the audience breathlessly wanting more but alas, there would be no encore this evening: a masked band requires a plan, and Jonathan Bree had fulfilled his, giving the audience his all.