November 6, 2010
7th Street Entry
It is a rare show where the band clearly gives everything they have on stage, yet leaves the crowd wanting more. Saturday night's Red Pens show at a packed 7th St. Entry was one of those performances, as the band, spent and sweaty, left the stage after their blistering 45-minute set, but most of the people in the crowd would have stayed and listened to them play all night, even though it was well past 1 a.m. when they finished.
We were all there to celebrate the release of Limitations, the Red Pens fiery new EP, as well as all of the other potent songs the duo has in their growing arsenal of hits. After starting with the title-track, they played a couple old numbers just to warm up a bit before they tackled the rest of their new stuff, with dynamic versions of "Children And Their Kids" as well as a song Howard Hamilton introduced by saying self-deprecatingly, "This little piece of shit is called "Phase You Out." Trust me, it wasn't a piece of shit, not by a long shot, and set us all up perfectly for the flash of brilliance that is "Good Luck Charm." It's such a short blast of deafening fuzz and pure pop melody, and is over in a flawless minute and a half. It's quite simply a perfect song, which would really be ruined by any type of needless tinkering or lengthening, for it ends at just the right point.
The band clearly hit their stride at this point, with both Hamilton and Laura Bennett exploring an expansive and explosive rhythm on "Melted Filmstrip" that really found Howard shredding away relentlessly on guitar. The Red Pens are so good, in fact, that if you ever got into a "My local band is better than your local band" argument with friends from another city, playing them the combustible music of the Minneapolis two-piece, or better yet, taking them to see Red Pens play live, would certainly end the discussion in your favor. They simply slay, each and every time, with material that is just gettting better and better, as evidenced by "Next Summer," a stellar new song the duo performed during the midpoint of their set, which Hamilton assured us will be on their next EP.
The rest of the performance featured more spirited songs from Limitations, with the surf-rock instrumental "Far Off" and "I Want More More" both sounding immense and inspired. The band threw in the classic anthem "Blue Lighters" just to remind us all how amazing an album Reasons is, before playing "Cool Colors," another new song from their (hopefully) quick follow up EP that finished the main set. After the briefest of breaks, they came back out for just a one-song encore, the hilariously titled "Taco Cha Cha" that ended the night with a resounding bang. And all of us left wanting more after this explosive performance can just go see Red Pens next time they lay waste to a venue in town. Lucky us.
Critic's Bias: Big fan who is still a bit embarrassed that I didn't vote for them for 2009's Picked To Click.
The Crowd: Massive and clearly enjoying themselves, dutifully turning out to show their support for one of the best local bands going.
Overheard In The Crowd: "I had no idea they were a two-piece."
Random Notebook Dump: I really hope that Limitations eventually gets released on vinyl. I'm a dork like that.
For more photos: See our full slideshow by Erik Hess, including shots of openers Zombie Season, Fauna, and Indian Style.