LSDelighted! 63 Crayons spread their love

Sure, sure, we all know it’s what’s inside that counts.
But first impressions usually determine if one person ever gets close enough to another to see any insides at all, making first impressions unfortunately one of the biggest, most important influences on any relationship. Most of the time we deduce people’s politics, social grouping, and general world-view just by looking at their outward appearance.
When watching smaller musical acts set up to perform, if you have no previous knowledge of their sound, the first impression mental module kicks into full gear.
“Are the group members attractive/cool looking/exceedingly dorky (which is cool in its own way)/of mixed gender/young/old/or playing rare and unusual instruments?” are just some of the observations that– at least subconsciously– probably influence one’s later listening experience.
63 Crayons, a psychedelic rock group I had the pleasure to see last March, made quite a favorable first impression on me for a number of reasons, but the principal one was the inclusion of the “rare and unusual instrument” known as the Theremin. Invented in 1919, the Theremin uses the theory of beat frequencies to produce high-pitched oscillating sounds, which the performer can control simply by placing his hands near the device. This was the first Theremin I had ever seen in real life, and as I saw one again– on-stage with a different group last night– I can only suppose that they are starting to catch on with the “kids.”
63 Crayons was formed in Roanoke in 1999 when Charlie Johnston borrowed a four-track recorder from his friend Suzanne Allison and laid down a number of “psychedelic” songs by himself, in the late ‘60s style of the Beatles, Beach Boys, and Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd. After a while, guitarist/vocalist Johnston decided to let his friends in on the project, recruiting Allison to play keyboard and Ben Davis to add Theremin and samples-– Joseph Davis was also later taken on to play bass.
The group’s latest EP is called Spread the Love, and it’s a slab of lo-fi pop merriment. “Take A Vacation” starts off the collection, with sound effects and Theremin making their presence known before Johnston’s guitar chords and the pounding beat of then drummer Marty Young start off the “Ba ba ba”-laden track.
Johnston possesses a high, slightly nasal voice– not unlike the Beach Boys’ Mike Love– that fits well with 63 Crayons’ loose/smart feel. “Emma Peel” is a honky-tonk piano-led high velocity tune which seems to be about to run off the tracks at any moment, while “Ben S. Pipes” is a tale of the death of the song’s namesake, put to a tick-tock beat that will have you jittering in place.
Although last time I saw the group they were backed by a drum machine, they still were one of the most energetic and engaging bands I have ever seen. As this week’s performance will feature “special guest drummer,” Sam Lunsford, I can only imagine things will be even better.

63 Crayons & The Visitations at Tokyo Rose, May 1. $5, 10:30pm.