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Live Review: Cheekface @ The Atlantis — 5/15/24

Few bands can thrive on a songwriting process steeped in tomfoolery, but even fewer are getting the kicks Cheekface is getting these days.

The LA-born indie rock band is one of the uncommon groups to employ talk-singing, and, with four albums to its name and now touring as a four-piece outfit, Cheekface is showing itself to be a master of its playful craft.

With rapid-fire drivel made of hyper-bland observations and ponderings on the current American existence, Cheekface is also proving to be a hilarious host of its entertaining live performances, one of which recently occurred at The Atlantis in DC.

Currently touring the USA and Canada, the band is consistently overtaking small venues, where bustling celebrations draw members of its growing fanbase, including the most ardent: self-proclaimed “Cheek Freaks.”

Cheekface packed The Atlantis in Washington DC the night of May 15, drawing a diverse group of humans to the U Street Corridor venue for a set of delightfully unconventional, all-out silly songs, including most of its newest record, the sneak released It’s Sorted.

Listen to Cheekface’s newest album, It’s Sorted, via Spotify:

But in performing sarcastic takes from each album, the group gave a hungry capital audience every reason to let loose, serving up inquisitive tunes with pep, sass and a particularly nerdy wit.

And within the first few bounces of the set, Cheekface’s singular funk had overtaken everyone in the place.

All the way in the back of the house, characters in glasses and dress shirts who might have been poring over code or sales sheets only a few hours earlier grooved with all their might, bopping, turning and hopping to Cheekface classics like the DC-inspired “Dry Heat/Nice Town” from 2019’s Therapy Island and “Best Life” from 2021’s Emphatically No.

But with new pieces from It’s Sorted like “Popular 2” and “Largest Muscle,” which last week in DC segued into a cover of Hall & Oates “I Can’t Go For That,” Cheekface showed that it’s finding its stride and strengthening its magnetism.

Watch the official music video for Cheekface’s “Life in a Bag” via the band’s YouTube channel:

“We’ve recently learned that DC is an important market for entertainment,” said band leader Greg Katz, who founded his own recorded label after working in the industry and losing his job in the early 2010s.

He expressed the band’s sincere gratitude to the crowd last Wednesday night.

“We understand that you have several options … and yet of these several options, you’re here with us.”

Katz had been in another band — LA Font — but in 2017 he teamed up with bassist Amada Tannen, formerly of stellastarr*, and the two formed a song-writing relationship, with the objective being to make each other laugh with lyrics. The result was Cheekface, which was rounded out with the addition of drummer Mark Edwards, and for live shows now also includes keyboardist/percussionist Alex “AJ” Johnson of Why Dogs Why.

Katz stirred The Atlantis with not only precise and rhythmic lyric abilities, but his electric guitar skills as well, and his three colleagues were impressive, strutting in perfect cadence and amplifying the group’s one-of-a-kind sound.

“This next song is an original Cheekface composition about …” Katz introduced many of the songs in this manner, repeating the group’s tagline, too: “America’s Local Band.”

Listen to Cheekface’s 2022′ studio album, Too Much to Ask, via Spotify:

Cheekface might be likened to some of the famous talk-singing bands of the past, but Katz shared with the crowd that one of his biggest influences was in fact a local one: DC’s own The Dismemberment Plan.

As it turned out, D-Plan recently announced its first shows in nearly a decade. Katz said he and his Cheekface mates went as far as reaching out to the group to inquire about possibly opening a show or shows for them. And though that effort didn’t come to fruition, he and The Atlantis audience agreed that he’d made the right move, in case the DeSoto Records legends should ever “change their minds.”

“Thanks to the folks making this place hospitable,” Katz offered further praise for the nation’s capital. “More than anything, it’s people like you who show up and keep the community alive and make it a welcoming place for bands like ours. We’re on tour and so we’re here today, gone tomorrow. You do this every night.”

Cheekface Setlist

Next to Me
Popular 2
When Life Hands You Problems
Dry Heat/Nice Town
Best Life
I Am Continuing to Do My Thing
Grad School
I Only Say I’m Sorry When I’m Wrong
Life in a Bag
Pledge Drive
You Always Want to Bomb the Middle East
Don’t Stop Believing
Largest Muscle >
I Can’t Go For That (Hall & Oates)
Don’t Get Hit by a Car
I Feel So Weird!
There Were Changes in the Hardcore Scene
Noodles
Noodles (played it again)
Plastic
The Fringe
“Listen to your heart.” “No.”
Noodles (and again)
We Need a Bigger Dumpster
Eternity Leave

Below are home-rolled/developed/scanned 35mm photographs of Cheekface along with the night’s opening act, Yungatita, performing at The Atlantis in Washington, DC, on May 15, 2024. All images copyright and courtesy of Casey Ryan Vock.

Cheekface @ The Atlantis Washington DC May 15, 2024 35mm Photo by Casey Ryan Vock

Yungatita

Yungatita @ The Atlantis Washington DC May 15, 2024 35mm Photo by Casey Ryan Vock