DC ROCK CLUB
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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rough Buff


When you see one concert a week you can usually predict if you're in for a good, bad, or mediocre show. For Buffalo Tom and Revival the expectations were pretty low. Revival was seen as a redux of Gob Iron while no one in Rock Club was particular fond of Buffalo Tom. The general feeling was, "Why are we going to this show again?" Fortunately, both bands surpassed my expectations making it a worthwhile night out.

I love when bands employ dual drummers so I was pleased when Revival had two guys bashing away. While I'm partial to percussions, I'm not a hippie-drum-circle kind of guy (well, maybe I was back in college). I just favor rhythm over melody. The other thing I immediately noticed was Revival's live set was nothing like the songs on their MySpace page. Based on that music Jimbromski and Sacklunch predicted the type of country-tinged sound that serves well as background music, but not something that's entertaining in concert. Well, Revival proved us wrong. Far from being a country band, they're indie rockers approaching a southern thing. Sure, you could find a little twang here and there but make no mistake, Revival is a rock band.

My favorite part was when they played "Don't Cuss The Fiddle" by Kris Kristofferson. In my concert preview I said they reminded me a little of Mr. "Me and Bobby McGee". It was an amusing coincidence. Potsy even wondered if our site influenced that song choice (it didn't).

Back to the dual drummers for a second. It didn't take long for us to deem a second drummer superfluous. My theory is they really want to get rid of one drummer but they're afraid to tell the guy with neck tattoos that he's out of the band. My advice when dealing with people with neck or face tattoos: tread lightly.

Okay, onto Buffalo Tom. Can a 20 year old band in its Steel Wheels phase* thrive in this age of flying cars, space vacations, and “downloadable” music? The short answer: Yes. The even shorter answer: No. Allow me to explain.

We arrived to the Black Cat and instead of being filled with young hipsters the place was packed with older guys and even some cougars. Definitely not your usual Black Cat crowd. Not only did the crowd look different, they behaved differently as well. DC crowds are famous for doin' the standing still. The Buffalo Tom fans displayed an excitement and eagerness you don't see at most shows. Each song was greeted with head bobbing, singing, and instant approval. I even noticed not one but two guys playing air guitar in the crowd. I can see liking a song but don't play the air guitar at a show. If I ever do that at a concert, Potsy has promised to bludgeon me to death with a real guitar.

While the crowd close to the stage (where I was situated) loved the entire set, I was still a little mystified at what made the music so special. It wasn't bad by any stretch, but it wasn't spectacular either. It was straight forward noise pop. They're a power trio with heavy guitar. The songs had some reverb but little influence from their old college buddy, J. Mascis. Certain songs reminded me of The Wrens (a band I like) while others conjured memories of The Connells (I'm not a fan). The crowd went crazy for "Kitchen Door" but "Tangerine" was the most powerful song of the night as the fans yelled the lyrics in unison. How did they follow up this dynamic performance? With a dreary song that killed all momentum. At least I found it dreary. They seemed to do little wrong in the eyes of their long time fans. Overall, there were many more highlights than lowlights but the music didn't convert me.

While I'm not exactly a fan, I do respect the band greatly. Why don't more bands take Buffalo Tom's approach? After 20 years they aren't marketing themselves to a "new generation of fans". They aren't changing up their sound trying to hit it big again. They've moved on and focused on raising their families. Yes, they still make records but not in search of fame or money. They only tour weekends to accommodate their family schedules. It's more dignified approach than bands who desperately hang onto the limelight well past their heyday (ah-hem..Mooney Suzuki..cough-cough).

This brings me back to my original question: Can Buffalo Tom still thrive after all this time? It depends on how you looks at it. They're not gaining many new fans but they're sure keeping the long time fans satisfied.

I give the Buffalo Tom and Revival show a Rock Club rating of 6.1.

* I stole this term from Jimbromski

6 comments:

dm said...

ahhh, that's the stuff. i never really dug buffalo tom too much. not quite noisy enough, not quite catchy enough.

i recommend team RC check out dan melchior at the BC next friday, playing with RC faves (i think?) the hall monitors. he's a prolific and pretty great dude.

Jimbromski said...

I stole the Steel Wheels comment from the Onion AV Club.

I have to be honest, I spent most of this one downstairs in the bar.

listenist said...

The guy with the neck tattoos is Brandon Butler, a very good singer/songwriter in his own right- great folksy/Americana stuff with a working-class point of view. He hasn't been playing out on his own much recently, but he makes a mean second drummer in Revival- it's a fun spectacle.

Also, he could surely kick our asses.

Super Zoe said...

A 6.1 is not a strong enough recommendation for me to check it out. However, if that drummer asked me, to...I would say yes. He looks very serious about his music.

Potsy said...

I really dug Revival, despite wanting to call them the Rivals or some other derivation all night. They brought the rock, and it was much appreciated. I definitely think two drummers are cool when there is value added. It does seems like Revival could raise their profit margins by reducing their numbers by one. I'm not saying which one, you can have a drum-off if you want. But it made me think of the Polyphonic Spree. They have way too many folks on their payroll. I did ask Josh why the KK song. He was all "why NOT a KK song? The man made great music, that's why!" He wasn't belligerent, just passionate about Mr. Kristofferson. Josh is not a native of DC, by the way. I wasn't expecting a Brit-like accent.

Buffalo Tom was a bit too slow after Revival. I found them underwhelming. Good for Jumbo Slice for sticking it out. You add much needed legitimacy to the organization. I also think of the Connells when I think of Buffalo Tom. I liked their '74 '75 track.

sacklunch said...

I enjoyed the Revival as well. It was a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll. BT didn't do it for me. I listened to about 4-5 songs and then ventured downstairs.

Speaking of the Connells, I used to be a huge fan around 89'-90'. I saw them quite few times at the old 930 club and even at Jumboslice's alma mater (Mary Washington College). I would probably hate it now, but at the time it was good, decent indie rock. I am sure I had many a mix cassette tape with Connells tunes on them. Some of those bands just don't stand the test of time. I used to love a band called That Petrol Emotion back in high school. I listened to them recently and it was pretty bad. Same goes with Jesus Jones. Bad, bad, bad....