Zac Farro of HalfNoise performing at The Basement East, photo by Taylor Lomax.

Zac Farro’s HalfNoise is always going to have huge shoes to fill. The project, started during Farro’s hiatus from Paramore in 2012, has the unenviable task of standing out as more than a side project from one of the industry’s most widely beloved bands.

But to limit HalfNoise to a Paramore side project is to do a massive disservice to Farro’s considerably different work on the project and to the unique and singular vibe they provide live audiences. The music here is, in a word, groovy—evoking a pastiche of Motown and disco, among other influences, all in the service of straight-up fun.

Zac Farro of HalfNoise performing at The Basement East, photo by Taylor Lomax.

At a HalfNoise show, you can reasonably expect everything to be in service of this groove, with “Congratulations” being a central refrain, artist and fans alike. November’s release show for past studio album Motif was no exception; if anything, everyone in the room felt even more celebratory than Farro’s previous stint at the Basement East in spring 2019. Sure, you can chalk a lot of this up to the pandemic—a lot of people are just happy to be at shows again period, to be fair. But Farro himself seemed renewed, especially by his newest music. Standout tracks like “Two of Us” and “Superstition” created an irreplaceable and uniquely alive feeling among the crowd, even though most people in attendance were nowhere close to learning the words.

That said, it was, expectedly, the throwback tracks that were the highlight of the night energy-wise. 2019’s “Who Could You Be” was a particularly strong point with its infectious groove and singalong chorus. But, as new as the Motif tracks were, they fit right into the show’s setlist, creating a distinctive feeling that still sits right in line with HalfNoise’s impressive discography.

As for the music on Motif, it’s not a total departure from what we’ve seen from HalfNoise by any means. But this record—the strongest offering yet from the project—leans into retro sounds in a wholly new and more nuanced way than Farro’s still-remarkable past work. If it was ever in question whether HalfNoise was a sustainable, legitimate project in its own right and not just as a fun aside at Paramore shows, Motif buries those doubts entirely.

And with that, I leave Farro and his assortment of musicians with one big “Congratulations.”