When a band of hungry twenty-somethings comes off a ferocious and critically-acclaimed debut, the urgency of delivering a satisfying sophomore follow-up may seem daunting. Luckily for Charly Bliss—comprised of lead singer Eva Hendricks, her brother and drummer Sam Hendricks, guitarist Spencer Fox, and bassist Dan Shure—they’ve expanded their musical wheelhouse by looking inward and leaning into their pop sensibilities, exposing heaps of dark secrets and inner traumas. All these ingredients make up the recipe for Young Enough, the band’s strong second full-length that paints over pain with colorful synths, bouncy rhythms, and polished production, all of which they loaded into the van to showcase on their current tour.
Just a few songs in at Hamden, Connecticut’s Space Ballroom Eva screamed, “We’re having so much fun!” sincerity twinkling in her eyes. “I hope you are too!” Hendricks led her crew with infectious energy, bouncing, jumping, and headbutting her bandmates with an enthusiasm that was both warm and contagious. The effervescent lead couldn’t stand still if she tried as they pummeled through “Blown to Bits” and “Percolator,” the lead tracks from both of their albums. The onslaught continued with “Capacity,” one of the new singles that tackles millennial burnout and anxiety (relatable!).
Having been compared to Weezer both by fans and critics alike, the band excels in many of the same ways. Weezer’s proven longevity has paved the way for the next generation of pop rockers, Charly Bliss included, who are finding their own methods yet wandering down similar paths. Weezer is neither ashamed of its sugar rushes nor afraid to plug in and get Arena Rockin’. The same can be said for Bliss whose tight 18-song set sea-sawed from blissful pop crooners to guitar-driven party-starters.
A live Charly Bliss show goes down smooth, a power-pop/indie rock hybrid that serves the catchiest of hooks (“Hard To Believe”), fuzzy guitars (“Ruby”), and dark treatises on growing up, laughing when someone’s dog dies, therapy, and on the new album, sexual assault, which Eva has been forthcoming about in the band’s latest press. They’re pros at juxtaposing real-life truths with bursting melodies that add sheen over grim issues and feelings. While contradictory on the surface, it’s actually quite complementary, a gift wrapped in black yet adorned with the shiniest, glossiest, largest pink bow there is.
The night’s best offering was sandwiched between spirited bops and candy-coated pop-punk. Young Enough’s title track is an emotional walk down memory lane diving head-first into youthful love and inevitable heartbreak. Eva sang, “And when the sidewalk ripped up our frozen feet, I can’t protect you now if I couldn’t save you then…We’re young enough to believe it should hurt this much.” Hendricks’ songwriting progression on the new record is admirable; she’s an introspective young artist who has come into her own. When she belts things like “I elected to drown in you” and “Nobody knows you, the weight of your trust, how I crushed and consumed you and loved you too much,” you’d have to be dead inside to not feel the hurt. Her ability to transfer that feeling onto the audience was palpable and beautiful. The emotional hangover was unabashedly strewn on her face throughout the performance. When it ended, the crowd’s roar looked like it could’ve broken her, but a hug from Sam and a snappy segue into “Bleach” put a smile back on her face.
For the encore, the band delivered a one-two punch of Len’s “Steal My Sunshine” (requested by a screaming fan) which united the kids and older heads in the crowd. Shortly after, they bowed out with “Love Me,” a single from their 2014 Soft Serve EP and a refreshing treat for their earliest fans. Just two albums deep, it’s impressive to see them pick up speed so quickly. They’re better, louder, and more energetic than ever before, having risen up and found their voice through sturdy, sympathetic self-examination. Charly Bliss is not only basking in the moment, they’re readying themselves for pop domination.
Photos by Matthew Esposito / @mehhsposito