Something is broken with the sky: here it is,
the first day of the Winter Semester, and it's so warm out
that i am walking around in Chuckies, a pair of jeans, a t-shirt,
an overshirt, and NOT freezing my cojones off. How wierd
is that? Not that i'm complaining, really, but it is, well,
Anyway, so on this unseasonably warm day (69 F -- in January???), i went to see French Toast. You see, a few years back Tracers wandered into a
French Toast show by accident, and thought "PostLibyan would like this band!" so she thoughtfully bought me a copy of their
debut EP. I loved it and reviewed
it on this site. Then a few years later French Toast released a full-length album, which i have yet to review even though it ranked seventh on my 2005
Best Albums list. A solid disc, and i was looking forward to my first chance to see this band.
But it was a stressful and annoying day that included such trials of the human spirit as:
- Standing in line for an hour to get a parking pass at school.
- Being stuck at work late waiting to do some editing that never came.
- Having the crap scared out of me when a huge dog, drool flying from sharp
teeth, lunged at me from the back of a pickup truck as i stopped by my home
after work. I hate it when big angry sounding dogs sneak up on you like that.
- I hate it even more when big, angry sounding dogs stand in the back of
a pickup truck in front of my apartment and bark in a non-stop and cat-scaring
kind of way for half an hour! I don't even know who's truck that was...
- Insanely bad traffic that caused it to take almost 90 minutes to traverse
the 20 miles between my apartment and Casa de la Tracers.
- Opening twee.
Okay, well, the first band, local act Murder Beach, were not technically a twee band -- the vocals were a little more on the order of "shouted in unison" as opposed to being harmonized -- but they still had an upbeat and syrupy tone.
This, overall, annoyed Tracers, who is to twee what i am to alt.country, which is to say: the direct musical antithesis. I believe her exact words were, "This is like Ladybug Transistor on speed!" I actually think that's a good comparison. Murder Beach had a two guitar attack, a trio of harmonized "shouted in unison" voices (1 male, 2 female), and toe-tapping rhythms. I found their music to be pleasant in a non-threatening kind of way. They were slightly fun. The band certainly seemed to be having a good time up on stage. And they did manage to fill the audience with their friends (the majority of whom appeared to be very short women -- under 5'5" in height. Odd that this local pseudo-twee act draws out the "little people"!)
So: not a bad opener overall, but not one of the best. They quickly geared out and a short muscular gent in an orange shirt began setting up drums. This, i gathered, was Jerry Busher. He was shortly joined (pun intended) by a shortish man wearing a pin striped shirt and non-matching pin-striped slacks. He began setting up amps and pedals. Ah, i thought, James Canty. Soon they were joined by a third person, who seemed really tall standing with Busher and Canty but in reality was probably my height (which is: statistical average for a human male). Canty moved back to the drums and sampler, while Busher took up the bass, and this third band member took up the guitar. Later, after checking out the bandís website, i learned that this was new band member Ben Gilligan.
Anyway, French Toast set up as a three piece. And then they tore into it. They opened with Off Center, only here stretched out, long and minimal. Canty's drumming combined with Gilliganís guitar and Busher really screeching out the high-pitched chorus. Wonderful, simply wonderful. Then they shifted around, Busher sitting behind the drum kit while Canty took up the bass and Gilligan sang a song. Not a bad tune, but completely new to me.
And then Canty took over the guitar and vocal duties for a few songs. This was the strongest lineup of the band, since Busher is a phenomenal drummer (he beats the kit so hard i was afraid it was going to collapse) and Canty's guitar work is exquisitely post-punk, blending The
Edge and Jon King into one squealing, catchy whole. Gilligan, as the new kid on bass, did a fine job too, but he didn't seem to be a virtuoso like Busher or Canty. It was a pleasure watching them perform, and i stood there bopping my head along to their music. I know that they played Float Away off of the latest album, but i am bad with song titles so i couldn't tell you what else they played.
They ended with a slightly unusual piece. Busher stood up and sang, danced, and swung the microphone around over a throbbing drum machine beat. This was Insane off of In A Cave, as every tune they did tonight was (with the exception of Gilliganís song) It came across really well in concert, and, with the right remix artist, i can see it being a club hit in the UK.
Anyway, French Toast played for about 40 minutes. Forty incredible minutes. They poured their hearts out on that stage, flailing around, hammering at their instruments, making a glorious noise. It was a truly wonderful show, and anyone who enjoys catchy, punky rock music needs to catch these guys on tour.
So, for an eerily warm night after a day full of strange stresses, French Toast made everything right with the world, at least while they were playing. Unfortunately they also wound me up so much that i could barely sleep that evening, which made the next day also stressful and problematic... But that's another story, for another day.