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The churning energy of Feels

Don't stop moving

Feels frontwoman and lead guitarist Laena Geronimo churns with energy. Photo courtesy of

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Earlier this year, a video showing David Letterman rightfully losing his shit after watching a performance from Future Islands went viral. Samuel T. Herring, frontman for the synth-pop romantics, blew the roof off of the Ed Sullivan Theater with his wildly expressive performance - his intense stare, the animalistic way he'd beat his chest, the way his croon would slip into a Cookie Monster-esque yarl, his overall physicality - it all added up to enough to make David Letterman actually excited about something, which is a rare feat.

Still, cynicism reigns in this day and age, so the blowback to the performance was quick and fierce. Those that didn't care for Herring's antics really didn't care for them. Cries of him trying too hard, being too calculated, being weird for weird's sake, and just generally annoying with the amount of effort he put in echoed across the Internet. All the while, I couldn't help but shed a tear for the state of music appreciation in this world. When did everyone forget that being a performer is cool, and that being great at your job means truly embracing the music and the task of entertaining. At music's best, it's a way for a layman like me to commune with a truly creative individual, to stand in awe of someone's passion. Yes, there will always be room for discussions about truth in art, but I'll always accept an awe-inspiring lie - if that's what performers like Herring are serving up.

Though she couldn't be said to be nearly as flashy as the Future Islands' frontman, Laena Geronimo similarly commands the stage like a woman possessed. Geronimo fronts a Lolipop Records band called Feels, which used to go by Raw Geronimo. In Raw Geronimo, Laena stood at the head of the stage, a tambourine and a microphone in her hands, and mesmerizingly fused with the music - her face and her movements becoming like instruments. After pairing the lineup down to a four-piece and changing the name to Feels, Geronimo then took the role as frontwoman and lead guitarist.

"After a couple years of doing Raw Geronimo and releasing a record last fall, we switched gears a little bit and the sound changed," says Geronimo. "We decided to change the name of the band to reflect what we sounded like. Feels started in May. ... I started playing guitar in the band, and me and (keyboardist/rhythm guitarist) Shannon Lay got more interested in altering the tone with guitars, and getting into some more pedal stuff. ... When I started Raw Geronimo, I just wanted to totally freak out and disconnect from everything else besides singing my heart out. After a while, I missed playing something. It's nice to be able to perform more through the guitar than my body, you know? Before, I was more like a conductor."

Even though she's not able to be as free with her movements as the lead guitarist, you can still sense the energy churning within Laena Geronimo. She never stops moving - none of this stock-still, lackadaisical strumming that has become the norm in indie rock. The way she performs makes it very clear that the sounds coming from her guitar are extensions of her. Additionally, fellow bandmates Lay, Michael Rude and Amy Allen feel completely connected and present when they get on stage. Even without showboating, Feels become utterly dynamic in the moment.

Musically, Feels have broken away somewhat from the eclectic genre-hopping that defined Raw Geronimo - who skipped from bratty punk to soaring, romantic indie rock - in favor of a more direct, upbeat psych-punk befitting their inclusion on Lolipop Records, one of LA's prominent hubs for psychedelia and garage rock. Though there's no official Feels album to date, they are readying the release of a live cassette, which is designed to resemble a bootleg. Nothing could be more fitting than a bootleg for a band meant to be spread around and talked about.

FEELS, w/ MILK, Wild Berries, 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 21, The New Frontier Lounge, 301 E. 25th St., Tacoma, $5, 253.572.4020

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