Sometimes you expect something from a show that you shouldn’t. Thursday night was one of those nights and as the end of the show gets further into the past, I’m more and more happy with it, though immediately after I left, I was somehow left wanting something more. It’s the American way I suppose: “I’m full, but still I could eat a little something.” Luckily, music can’t give you heart disease.
Marvelle opened the show at the 7th Street Entry and after hearing them, I was surprised I hadn’t heard of them before. The songs didn’t center on the bass, instead they centered on the violin. The violin was a little overwhelming at times, though it brought both an elegance and sharp edge to songs that could have been a little drab with run-of-the-mill instrumentation. They songs were solid though full of big, of sad ideas. Overall, they seem like they are still on their way a little bit, but they sounded awfully promising. In the Could Cult vein, band member Linnea Maas’ sole job is visual art. She painted a large canvas during the entire set that ended up looking a bit like a Vietnamese jungle but looked like several different things on the way there.
When San Francisco-based Birdmoster first appeared on the national stage a few years back, they drew comparisons to Fugazi and the Pixies with hints of Americana sprinkled throughout, but now the Americana is front and center on From the Mountain to the Sea and (surprise!) they sound about twice as appealing. The jaggedness is still intact but the songs seem more honest, heartfelt; lead singer Peter Arcuni’s lyrics are a bit more literate and understandable, full of rich imagery. While they no longer pack the mighty wallop they once did, the trade still seems to be in their favor. Any band can show up, play a set of eardrum-bursting noise and leave the crowd in a lather, but there’s as much--if not more--to be said for a band that pours it’s collective heart out for a roomful of strangers. Sure, the early stuff was nice, but it was hardly this brave or confident. They played songs both old and new and while the old ones are great fun, they just don’t quite have the same power of the new songs. Where there was once bluster there is now introspection, tension is replaced with catharsis. This is a band that I will be watching closely, I don’t think they aren’t out of tricks just yet.
Next up were The Rumble Strips. Charlie Waller’s voice is even more jarring when you're standing in the midst of it and while they give way to a little too much goofy hipsterism (an ironic t-shirt here, a tailored grey suit accessorized with navy Adidas Gazelles there), the innocent, light tone of the songs (which aren’t really about anything heavy) makes you forgive all that. They aren’t perfect by any means (overall, they sound a lot like Dexy’s Midnight Runners and we all know what happened there) but that’s not why people like them.
There are a lot of “We are serious people making serious music”-type bands that have gained prominence of late, and The Rumble Strips are a giddy slap in the face to that ethos. The brazen, off-kilter horns, a sax and a trumpet, seemed to be coming from everywhere during the set and Waller’s beat-up acoustic guitar looked more than a little bit like Willie Nelson’s beloved “Trigger”. They all danced, jumped and did their best rock star poses. I found their debut, Girls and Weather, a bit much, but hearing it live made me rethink my initial reaction. The songs were injected with a different life on stage. The pedal-to-the-metal silliness of it all is a lot to take in recorded form but it was a nice way to end the night. Sometimes as adults we have to reminded that fun is fun and I believe The Rumble Strips were there to do just that.
-- Pat O'Brien