The week after South by SouthWest
of this year i wandered over to The
EARL to catch a couple of bands and to hang out with friends. It was a low-key sort of evening, but i saw this amazing band called Say Hi to Your Mom. They were silly with really catchy synth-driven songs. I fell in love with Impeccable Blahs, the album for which they were then on tour, and have attempted to play the record for every human being i can.
So it was with a bit of excitement that i chose to skip the obligatory Halloween Party (bonus: i don't have to take grief about not bothering to dress in some stupid costume!) and go see the band at The EARL. Would they live up to the tremendous expectations i had built over these past few months while listening to Impeccable Blahs over and over again? Oh, i hoped so....
The EARL was empty this evening, which is to be expected on a holiday weekend. Which is a shame, because this was a fun show.
The opening band was a young act from Philadelphia called The A-Sides. They even had a giant, fluorescent letter A on the stage with them! Their set started with one guitarist on stage playing his guitar through a ton of effects, making a post-rockish drone.
A-Sides rock the guitars.
The rest of the band came on, and they proceeded to play effects laden rock.
At times they got a little blues-y, and at times they seemed to be channeling
Echo and the Bunnymen (who i have ranted
about before). Mostly they played New Wave derived music, and did
it very well. Both Tracers and i were entertained through their entire
set. Not bad at all for a previously unknown act. If you are one of the
legions of people who like post-Bunnymen rock, you would do well to give
The A-Sides a shot.
A-Sides with keyboards and added percussion.
The next act, however, was not my thing. They were called Velvet Teen (get it? it's a pun -- something to do with rabbits i think!), and apparently they were the big draw tonight. The sparse EARL crowd that had lingered at the bar during the wonderful A-Sides performance rushed to the stage when Velvet Teen started.
They played a sort of hodge-podge of 90s Indie Rock. There was a little metal in some of the power cording and shouted vocals, a little bit of math rock in some of the drumming and a few of the tunes, a little straight up Indie Rock (a la Archers of Loaf) at a few moments. Really, i think that i should have loved this band -- i like all of those things, so why wouldn't i like an act that combined them all?
The Velvet Teen lead singer/bassist in Geddy Lee action.
This bothered me, so i have spent some time pondering it, and i think the answer is that Velvet Teen are more about technical proficiency than about actual passion in their playing. Now, i know that some people really get into watching musicians who are technically proficient (how else can you explain the fact that Rush are still touring?), and i admit that i enjoy watching a talented performer push the limits of his instrument.
But Velvet Teen weren't pushing boundaries, they were simply doing common things very well. Does that make any sense? Another aspect of this is that they didn't seem to have anything to say. Their songs had no emotional resonance -- the vocalist wasn't angry, and their thrashy songs did not come across as rage-filled. It is merely that they were making music that is derived from people who played from anger. I guess this means that i found them to be somewhat sterile.
Still, their fans (and there were many) really seemed to get into it. Well, to each their own. I found their set too clinical to be really enjoyable.
Fortunately Say Hi (they have dropped the "To Your Mom") set up and started to play soon afterwards. And they were brilliant. This is a band that isn't about technical proficiency -- no one would accuse Eric Elbogen of trying to be a Guitar God -- but they do it passably. And the songs are rather personal -- Elbogen is writing about his life, which is obviously something he cares about. I guess i relate because his life is about being a music and sci-fi nerd (Let's Talk About Spaceships and an album about vampires -- this band could play Dragon Con!)
Noella Johnson sings about spaceships.
Say Hi started with the one two punch of These Fangs and Blah Blah Blah off the record i listened to all summer. They sounded great, and i bounced and danced like a fool in the mostly empty club. They also played several tunes off of The Wishes and the Glitch, which will be out in February. These songs sounded good, especially Northwestern Girls with its repeated chorus of "It must be in the air here". They also played a stunningly gorgeous version of Sweet Sweet Heartkiller.
Eric Elbogan doesn't mind if you wanna hide your fangs too.
I enjoyed the entire set tremendously, and was very disappointed that there were so few other people to enjoy it. In a just world, Say Hi would be selling out The EARL. Sometimes i don't understand people -- was wearing a silly costume more important than seeing these songs performed live?
Well, i loved it. And Say Hi convinced me that there is much to love in the band. I continue to be a fan, and will continue to play their CDs for everyone i know. Maybe next time there will be a bigger, more enthusiastic crowd.