Temples at First Avenue, 4/24/14


With Drowners and Two Harbors
First Avenue, Minneapolis
April 24, 2014

It's both a blessing and a bit of a curse for a band's show to move to a bigger room in order to accommodate demand. Sure, the group's popularity is increasing at an unforeseen rate, but some folks bought tickets to see you at a more intimate venue. It raises questions about whether or not a band is ready for a larger stage, or if they're all hype.

On Thursday night at First Avenue, Kettering, England psych-rock quartet Temples made everyone forget about the gig originally being scheduled for the much smaller Turf Club, as they delivered a guitar-drenched, hour-long set that showcased their hazy jams and throwback sound. Openers Drowners and local quartet Two Harbors also gave the club a welcome jolt of energy, in one of the most perfectly suited triple-bills in recent memory.

See also:
Slideshow: Temples rock First Avenue

Temples made their Minneapolis debut while clearly riding the buzz of their current single, "Shelter Song." The nearly full-house surprised their glammed-out, Marc Bolan-esque lead singer, James Bagshaw, as he remarked that they were, "Playing to a bigger crowd than we'd get in Liverpool. We should move here." That bond with the crowd continued throughout the tight set, even though the band themselves don't get up to too much -- visually or charismatically -- and instead throw themselves into their sprawling neo-psychedelia numbers.

There is a retro charm to their material that is rather weightless and irresistible, and went over well with the "everything old is now new again" crowd. "Colours to Life" had a Grateful Dead-ish refrain to it, while "Prism" and "Sun Structures" echoed elements of the Byrds and the 13th Floor Elevators in their buoyant sonic sprawl. Bagshaw's lyrics were focused on all things astral (not too surprising on an album named Sun Structures), and was reminiscent of the delirious poetry of any youthful artist who chooses to forgo navel-gazing and instead looks up into the night sky with wonder.


The lengthy pre-recorded clapping intro for "A Question Isn't Answered" immediately grabbed the audience, as the band's shadowy harmonies blossomed slowly along with its beats. The song swung through many different genres as it unfolded majestically, exploring the trippy, Summer of Love-era optimism before settling into a fitful, Sabbath-like explosion of guitars that snapped the set fully to life. The band and their material worked much better the further they strayed from the confines of their songs' structures, and the more experimental twists breathed life into moments that sound flat on the album.

Temples chose their influences well, especially in this era that is so focused on nostalgia. So "Move With the Season" brought to mind CSNY's leisurely, harmony drenched jams, while guitar-driven snippets of the Yardbirds popped up. But the young band clearly brings their own modern take on these well-worn sounds, and never approach a level of flat-out pastiche or tired cliche.


They closed the main set with the Egyptian battle cry of "Sand Dance," which built to a crunchy guitar solo from Bagshaw, who was locked in throughout the show with guitarist/keyboardist Adam Smith, as they both consistently gave these spacey songs an added sonic kick. Bagshaw triumphantly held his guitar aloft before the band left the stage, as he soaked in the large crowd and their well-earned ovation.

The band kept that fire going straight through the two-song encore, as the catchy throb of "Mesmerize" turned into a droney, vibrant jam that was expanded to double the length of the studio version. Normally, when bands save their big hit for the last song, it comes across as a contrived effort to keep fans from leaving earlier in the set. But "Shelter Song" really gave the night one last emphatic spark, as the crowd joined in a celebratory sing-along that can grow in volume when the band eventually returns and fans have time to memorize the words. Temples made quite the first impression on Minneapolis last night, and have set a path to bigger venues in their bright future, both here as well as in Liverpool.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: It took me a while to warm to the psych-drenched charms of Sun Structures, but I've been won over now, especially after this show.

The Crowd: The near-full house was packed with fans young and old, interested in supporting openers Two Harbors as well as seeing if the two other hotly-tipped bands were worthy of the hype.

Overheard In The Crowd: "I wonder if that tight jacket James is wearing came in a bigger size."

Notes on the Openers: New York by-way-of Wales quartet Drowners and locals Two Harbors both wore their influences well -- as Drowners had a distinctive Strokes-like flair to their no-nonsense rock numbers, while Two Harbors gave a modern twist to Oasis' rousing pub anthems. And both bands fit in perfectly on a night when none of the groups shied away from paying homage to the bands and styles that have shaped them musically.

Drowners set drew from their excellent self-titled debut on Frenchkiss, with affable frontman Matthew Hitt even dedicating a rousing version of "Pure Pleasure" to Conrad and all the folks at First Avenue, "The most hospitable venue that we've ever played." Hopefully, the band will come back soon to headline the Entry, as the rowdy intimacy of that room would be perfect for their raucous jams.

Two Harbors meanwhile kicked off the night with a focused and fiery set that drew mainly from their forthcoming full-length, The Natural Order of Things. The bands anthemic, guitar-laden tracks sounded massive in the Mainroom, which was filled with fans and friends who rightfully turned up early to show their support to a group that seems poised to break out big with this spirited new release. The Oasis comparisons are obvious (frontman Chris Pavlich dedicated a song to his son, who is naturally named Noel), and Two Harbors fully embrace that arena-sized sound. And Oasis were consistently borrowing from other bands throughout their career, so what is so wrong about borrowing from Oasis. "You Pulled The Rug Out" was the only older track the band offered up during their fast-paced set, proving just how proud they are of these blistering new songs, which should set the Twin Cities alight. They certainly did on this evening.


Colours To Life


Sun Structures

A Question Isn't Answered



Move With The Season

Keep In The Dark

Sand Dance



Shelter Song

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