• Erin L. Miller

CONCERT REVIEW: BAYONNE

Updated: Oct 2, 2020


Bayonne by Pooneh Ghana

The Back Room at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro is typically mellow, but the night of the Bayonne concert felt especially sparse. Midway through the opener, though, as the night inched closer to Bayonne’s set, the room began to fill. However thin, the audience was warm. My gin and tonic tasted bright, the bartender friendly, the lights a low purple as I waited for the show.

Bayonne (real name Roger Sellers) met the crowd’s warmth with his own. The stage occupied by more instruments than people, Sellers was joined by Ryan Heath (Palm Daze) on drums. It felt intimate (made more so by the fact that it was his birthday). Labeled as a DJ, composer, electronic musician, and indie artist, Bayonne is certainly a unique brand. He ushered in his set by saying he’d be playing some “weird sounds,” which seemed as accurate a description as any.

Not shy about showing his sentiment toward the music, he routinely dropped his hand or beat his chest in rhythm. A display that could be interpreted as showboating to some, it didn’t feel fabricated to me. It seemed natural, carrying a contagious kind of energy. His performance felt animated and grateful. He jumped from drum to keyboard to guitar to microphone to mixing table, belying the notion that electronic artists have nothing to do on stage. If you weren’t already convinced of Bayonne’s time-tested technical background and musical skill, you were by the end of the night.

Even in the absence of live visuals, the sound he creates is easy to get lost in. It’s why his music pairs so well with writing, making art, setting a mood. His live versions embodied that same layered, orchestral sound. There’s a lush, textured quality to his work, the impression of being submerged—what one reviewer described as a “bold tropical vibrancy.”

The instrumentation is repetitive and hypnotic, paired with soft, melodic vocals. Supporting many of the songs are punchy drumbeats (influenced, I’m sure, from his love for Phil Collins). His Carrboro performance was a moving mold of keys, guitar riffs, beats, synth, clapping, and shoegaze vocals. The songs filled up and released like a lung.

For me, Bayonne has always felt elevated over other indie electronic artists. His merchandised “Bitchin’ Bayonne” hot sauce and unmistakable mustache reflect a level of playfulness. In terms of his music, though, it’s all heart. The music itself is emotive. His lyrics skirt the edge of abstraction but touch on visceral points. He writes of feeling alive, creative, high, feeding your energy.

Sellers probably best describes it himself: “That’s all of it—emotion. I want the music to carry people in some way, and I want them to feel what I’m feeling. I want my music to be an emotive expression.” It’s this earnest effort toward connection that makes so many people drawn to his music.

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