Sunset Rollercoaster on Sunset Boulevard: pioneering the surf slack rock movement from the East

Courtesy of Ross Harris

On Monday, Oct. 28th, the Roxy Theatre on Sunset Boulevard hosted some of indie, surf and bedroom pop rock’s finest lads: Los Retros and Sunset Rollercoaster. 

Los Retros, one of Stones Throw Records’ newest signees, is the burgeoning bedroom pop group based in Oxnard, California fronted by 19-year-old Mauri Tapia. He opened up the night with his classic 1970s to 1980s Latin American soft rock jams, with just a dash of funk. While the term bedroom pop is based loosely around the idea that these up and coming artists are independently recording in their DIY bedroom studios, Mauri and his crew have developed a unique sound that goes beyond the constraining walls of the genre. One of his notable covers, “Loop of Love,” sports a funky bass line and chord progression on piano, with an electrifying bass solo during the bridge. From funk city he pulls you right back to his quaint Oxnard living room with his most popular single, “Someone to Spend Time With.” The lazy bass line and soupy guitar licks, led by his delicate vocals, recall various big names of the indie bedroom pop genre, such as HOMESHAKE or Bane’s World. The track, with over five million streams on Spotify, managed to muster up a few shy voices scattered around the audience. 

While Los Retros put on a phenomenal show, it was clear that almost everyone who came wasn’t there for Mauri and his band.

They all came to see Sunset Rollercoaster, the jazzy yet slacker surf rock sextet based out of Taipei, Taiwan. Lead by 32-year-old frontman Tseng Kuo-Hung, or “Kuo” for short, the band’s immaculate live performance abilities made people’s hair stand on end, immediately transporting the audience from Hollywood’s clamor and buzz to the breezy tranquility of Taiwan’s shores. Kuo’s flowery vocals accompanied Hung Li Chen’s flawless bass playing. Huang Hao-Ting’s powerful saxophone solos and keyboardist Shao Hsuan Wang sharp chord progressions made for an almost wall of sound like nature that evoked sounds of introspection that persisted throughout most of their songs. Only until their encore number, “I Know You Know I Love You,” did they tone it down to their stripped-down, slacker garage rock sound they coined in their debut album back in 2011. The encore itself was encouraged by Kuo as he sang, “If you want more, vocalize how you feel.” Kuo and his band represent something beyond just another foreign rock band who can appeal to the West — they are pioneers of counter culture in Asia. While the guys may not come off as the most rebellious or daring, my conversation with Kuo after the show in which he gave me the extensive list of drugs he’s tried may say otherwise.

Sunset Rollercoaster and Los Retros, two groups based on opposite sides of the world, were brought together under the welcoming roof of indie surf rock. The Roxy Theatre displayed a diverse array of the genre, despite over a decade of experience separating the two acts.

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