Pedro The Lion

Flock of Dimes

Saturday, July 06
Doors: 7pm : Show: 8pm
$27.50 / Day Of : $30
Early into Santa Cruz, the poignant third album in David Bazan’s ongoing musical memoir of his sometimes-uncanny life, he discovers the Beatles. He is the new kid from Arizona in a new school in the famous California coastal town where his dad has accepted another post at a Bible college. He and his first friend there, Matt, are sitting on the carpet in Matt’s little bedroom, flipping through the records bequeathed by his father, when Bazan spots a familiar cover—The White Album, known only from a church documentary that warned children of the Satanic secrets of “Revolution 9.” Play it backwards, the propaganda said, and it would offer a command: “Turn me on, dead man.”

So, of course, the kids played it forward and were fascinated by the sound, by the imagination, by the act of consecrated creativity far outside of Christian rock. Bazan was 13. “Treading water on the open ocean/Then you threw me out a life ring,” he sings, the smile obvious just through the sound as the beat picks up like a racing pulse, more than three decades later. “All I needed was a little help from a friend.” That is the moment where, in many ways, the remarkable songs of Pedro the Lion begin to take shape.

In 2019, after a 15-year break filled with solo records and side-projects, Bazan returned to the moniker under which he had become one of indie rock’s most identifiable voices and incisive songwriters, Pedro the Lion. He sort of stumbled into 2019’s Phoenix, a charged chronicle of his childhood there, while spending the night with his grandparents during a tour stop. But he soon understood that unpacking his peripatetic youth, where his music minister father shifted around the country like a Marine moving bases, was helpful, healing, and maybe even interesting. The gripping Havasu followed in 2022. Bazan was onto something, untangling all the ways his past had both shaped and misshaped his present inside some of his best songs ever.

That past truly begins to become the present on Santa Cruz, the most fraught and frank album yet in a planned five-album arc; this one covers a little less than a decade, from just after he turned 13 until he turns toward adulthood around 21. These songs ripple with the anxiety and energy of teenage awakening—of hearing rock ’n’ roll, of understanding that independent music exists, of making out with an older schoolmate in deepest secret, of falling in love, of finally starting to understand that in order to be yourself you’re going to need to be something other than your parents’ vision of you. It is the rawest, most affecting and affirming album Pedro the Lion has ever made.

Santa Cruz begins with a prayer that feels like a dirge, a synth-led funeral march to another town where Bazan knows no one. “If I lay it down/And I keep my eyes on you,” he moans, steeling himself through self-sacrifice. “It’ll all work out.” But when he arrives in Santa Cruz to begin eighth grade, the self-flagellation comes quickly, Bazan lecturing himself for the lameness of the neon-green backpack he picked out in Phoenix and the Christian rock that is his lifeblood. For decades now, Bazan has been known for his music’s deliberate pace, often linked to slowcore.

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