On Jan. 11, Charleston, SC-based supergroup Doom Flamingo graced a packed Broadberry with an electric late-night set of synthwave mayhem.
The show served as the after-party for the Umphrey’s McGee show at the National earlier that night. While Doom Flamingo and Umphrey’s may not garnish comparisons in their recordings, the similarities in the ability to capture multiple sounds and moods were there. Heavy guitar and bass demanded Beavis and Butt-head-style headbanging, while the smooth blend of sax and synth filled the club, infecting people with the dancing bug.
Assembled by Friends With Benefits Productions’ Hank Wharton, Doom Flamingo is a Charleston product through and through, composed of some of the finest musicians in the city. They include Ryan Stasik (bass, also of Umphrey’s McGee), Kanika Moore (vocals), Ross Bogan (keys, also of RoBoTrio), Thomas Kenney (guitar, also of Terraphonics), Stuart White (drums), and Mike Quinn (saxophone). The band had only played five shows leading up to their performance at the Broadberry, but their set made it seem like they had been playing together for years.
“Everybody knew each other, it already felt like family. When we got together it just clicked,” Stasik said in a phone interview. The bassist went on to describe the sound and vibe of Doom Flamingo.
“We’re still forming and trying to figure out our sound, but right now synthwave characterizes it probably best,” he said. “Synthwave was going to be most importantly fun, but also outside of our box of jazz, or funk, or rock and roll.”
Doom Flamingo combines screaming guitar riffs with retro synth sounds, creating a feel Stasik describes as “cruising in a Lamborghini down the A1A, down in Florida, with palm trees all around you.”
“Growler” was the leadoff tune for Doom Flamingo at the Broadberry, coming in hot with a steady-rolling bass and drum beat before growing into that Miami Vice sound Stasik mentioned, peaking with a wailing saxophone solo by Quinn. Moore emerged and led the band’s first cover of the night, a synth-heavy version of ZZ Top’s “Legs.” The steady-marching arpeggio of dueling synths would continue into “Night Marchers,” forming an eerie yet beautiful palette for Moore to showcase her voice, before Bogan took the reins with some nasty detuned synth runs.
“Telepathy” was up next. Driven by Stasik and White, the slower dance track was flowing Phil Collins-style drum fills and synth sounds that could have been pulled straight from an arcade game. The song left plenty of space for an atmospheric jam, with Kenney melting face all over the song.
The second cover appeared in the form of “All Apologies,” a la Nirvana. This psyched-out version, reminiscent of early Flaming Lips, was smooth and sexy, segueing perfectly into Doom Flamingo’s next cover, Aeroplane’s “Love On Hold.” Subtle funk bass and synth stabs made this dance number a crowd favorite.
Moving back to their own stuff, “F-16” showed tinges of modern pop while simultaneously paying homage to 80’s club music. The band picked it up a little by busting out a flaming hot cover of Michael Sembello’s “Maniac,” allowing Moore to run all over the song. They exploded into “Runaway,” a song filled with Casio-like synth patches belonging in a Tron sort of setting. They closed the night out with a massive Black Sabbath cover, absolutely crushing the crowd with a wall of sound.
The show was impressive. The instrumentation, improvisation, and energy were all off the charts, and the band had both Umphrey’s McGee loyalists and local Richmond music lovers hanging around for more right until closing time. What was even more impressive was the artistic vision of Doom Flamingo and their drive to take the project to areas outside of their comfort zone, not just within music, but in other aspects of their stage show as well.
Bogan met Canadian artist Jordan Noir in the comments sections of a synthwave post on Instagram. After Bogan introduced Doom Flamingo to Noir, the project quickly began to turn multimodal. Noir became the band’s artist, creating prints and designs reflective of the Miami nightlife with a touch of heavy metal vibe.
Noir also came up with the idea of a comic book. Inserts titled “The Doomed” tell the story of superhero versions of the band members who are ostracized by the rest of the world, except for the city of Charleston. The inserts will be included with albums and reflect the lyrics, giving the listener another way to become immersed in the Doom Flamingo Universe. Noir said a video game for mobile platforms is also an idea that’s been tossed around.
Curious, futuristic without being dismissive of their predecessors, and above all, looking to have a good time while they play, Richmond could use more bands like Doom Flamingo.
Photos by Sean Chagnon, Eye of the Storm Photography
Music Sponsored By Graduate Richmond