A sold-out show at The Bartlett in Spokane, Washington and Tacocat arrives late. “Sorry,” says Emily Nokes, the band’s lead singer and tambourine player. She’s wearing a traditional kimono over a long pajama-style t-shirt with a print design that in spirit matches the kitschy cover art to their latest album, Lost Time. “Let’s play some songs.”

To say that Tacocat shows up worn would be an understatement. Spokane is technically the last stop on the Seattle foursome’s spring tour, one that started in Oklahoma City and featured Nashville’s Daddy Issues as primary support. Before this tour, the group was on another, and one before that — not to mention appearances at music festivals around the country, like SXSW and Sasquatch. Momentum has been steadily gaining since the release of their debut album NVP in 2014, but it has been their sophomore effort Lost Time, released back in April of 2016, which has elevated the group to new heights. “We’ve been so, so, so busy since the beginning of last year,” Nokes writes to Behind the Setlist via email, “[we’ve been] always on tour or planning for tour.”

Tired or not, Tacocat — also featuring Bree McKenna (bass guitar), Lelah Maupin (drums), and Eric Randall (guitar) — cannot afford to hit the brakes on their final stop before Coachella. So they give Spokane everything they have. Like any good rhythm section, Maupin and McKenna drive the crowd into a frenzy as Randall riffs new wave, pop-punk and surf rock through a bright orange guitar. Nokes twists and turns from start to finish of every song, her tambourine flailing like a lost balloon in a wind storm. In an era of super serious indie rockers — many of who perform like scolded children singing funeral dirges — Tacocat’s vibrant, visceral performance feels fresh. “I don’t think much about stage performance,” Nokes explains. “Like, there isn’t really anything I’m ‘going for’ except to move around a lot. I think this comes from the general anxiety and stage fright I’ve always had, and the fact that I don’t have an instrument up there to get engrossed in, really. It’s just me and the tambourine whirling around and trying not to feel nervous.”

The crowd feeds off this energy and makes an important connection to Tacocat’s music that’s impossible to describe. The closest phrase would be cultural therapy. While some Tacocat listeners may determine the band’s image and lyrics a bit of a novelty — certainly that’s the intent for some tunes — most fans interpret the group’s jocular, chaotic charisma as an important representation of counter culture in 2017. Singles like “I Hate the Weekend,” “Crimson Wave,” and “Men Explain Things to Me” become protest songs, sung loudly and without apology. Filled with feminists, proletariats, and contrarians, the crowd becomes more interesting than the musicians on stage, huddling together as if warming to fire. “It’s meaningful to us to see the kinds of people who come to our shows,” Nokes explains. “I really think we have the most sincere and smart and wonderful crowds that show up.”

Tacocat’s uplifting performance feels like a bizarre breath of fresh air with the political climate so toxic and the general mood of the country so down. Perhaps many audiences around the country have welcomed the positivity Tacocat brings. Their ability to wrap progressive lyrics that cover meaningful, often frustrating cultural themes in a bubble of fun is what makes them so unique and so needed at this time. Not a distraction, but an outlet.

“Music is the only thing in the world that’s making me feel… not necessarily better, but perhaps useful is closer to the word I’m looking for?” Nokes continues: “Let’s be angry and bummed — we have to be angry and bummed — but it’s also possible to use humor and positivity when appropriate to galvanize and rise to the current battles. Before we left on this tour we were all feeling pretty dark and depressed, which is absolutely the political climate, but also the literal climate in Seattle. We all suffer from different levels of seasonal blues and this winter has probably been the worst. But getting to go on tour and being up on stage with your best friends, playing music to people who generally seem to be on the same page naturally bends the energy towards the positive.”

With Coachella up next, one wonders how Tacocat’s perfected small-venue vibe translates to a massive outdoor festival in the heat of the California desert. Is the idea not to overthink it? Nokes says it’s hard to even wrap her brain around it. “I know I am going to maybe throw up from excitement, so if I manage to exude ANY energy that’s not palpable nerves, I’ll be excited. Perhaps an industrial-strength bubble-fog-laser machine will help take some of the pressure off?”

We wouldn’t be surprised.

Lost Time is available now on Spotify and Apple Music. Find Tacocat on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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