“What is this even … a spaceship taking off?” a girl in the audience turns and asks as the first notes of Leverage Model’s set March 8 at Burro Bar. Apt guess.
Churning, synthesized electronics flow over pounding drumroll and anxiety-inducing guitar feedback. Ready for lift off.
Our interstellar guides look like they just beamed out of some Wes Anderson flick. Hell, maybe they did. If so, the ship must have found its home planet, because this audience is a spitting image.
Shannon Fields tangos his away up and down the stage while recounting the majesty of our Wells Fargo and Bank of America buildings (with what might be sarcasm or irony — take your pick) in a voice so effects-laden it appears disembodied from his nimble frame. The drummer looks like he just punched-out of his job in IT and the guitarist wears a Roaring '20s flapper-era headband with pearly bead tassels that bounce across his bushman face. You know, quirks for quirks' sake.
“We have a moral imperative to present ourselves with the upmost decency,” Fields says with businesslike candor.
Everything is offbeat, except for the tunes. Well, literally anyways.
It’s an entertaining assault on the senses. Soaring falsettos lead into frenetic, jittery grooves as Fields alternates between mic and megaphone. Dance beats drive every moment. There’s a lot going on, and it’s surprising to see such a layered and versatile amount of textures and tones coming from just four musicians. The synthesized samples and beats are expected and welcome in the pop genre Leverage Models calls home, but there’s a rock-and-roll, devil-may-care presence here, too.
Fields is energetic. One minute he’s dropping tango moves with the audience, the next he’s walking on any platform he can crawl on top of and the next he’s rolling around on stage. He’s the primary writer and driving force behind the project, and the backing band seems to perform as such. They’re professional, and they deliver the tunes. Fields only occasionally stops dancing to drop nuggets of enlightenment on the audience.
“I’m not cool,” Fields says. “Cool implies a sort of blasé attitude about everything … like you’re not fazed by anything. I’m fazed by everything.”
The main goal for the touring troubadours: Getting Jacksonville to shake that groove thing.
They were successful. There’s only about 15 in the venue, and most of them are cutting up the floor. The fact that there were so few in attendance added charm. This was the in-crowd. These were the die-hards. They kept their ears to the ground and were reaping the rewards, one hip-dip and spin at a time.
After an additional song, Leverage Models concluded with Fields dancing his way to the merch table in the back of the room. The guitarist crawled his way to the mic Fields left center stage and, after a perfect moment comedic pause, a timid “peace” emitted from his beard. And that was that.