Long live rock, I need it every night

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Review-Preview: Tilly and the Wall

Until recently I knew little about Tilly and the Wall. I knew they had a tap dancer as part of their rhythm section and a few members had played in a band, Park Ave., with Conor Oberst. Later Tilly and the Wall was formed and was the first band signed to Oberst's label Team Love. Given that knowledge I assumed they were a gimmicky band that reached a certain stature because of nepotism. Not a very nice opinion, huh? Then one reader (Rich) emailed me after they played the Rock & Roll Hotel in March. He gave their live show two big thumbs up. A few weeks ago Jimbromski posted their new video for "Pot Kettle Black" and I thought it was pretty good. So I decided to check them out and see what these guys are all about. The Review-Preview is here to answer: Are Tilly and the Wall worth seeing at the Black Cat on July 26th?

Two bands local to Austin opened the show. First up - Ringo Deathstarr!!! Why the excessive use of exclamation points? Because these guys brought the noise rock and I loved it. Tons of distortion and heavy drums. They had the gauzy feel of The Jesus and Mary Chain combined with the loud and sloppy gutter punk of Blood on the Wall. They exuded a "we're rocking and if you don't like it you can go fuck yourself" attitude which reminded me a young Fake Accents. Needless to say I'll be keeping tabs on this band.

Belaire was next and proved a perfect opener for Tilly and the Wall. They specialize in melodic pop that's sunny and danceable. I'm not a great fan of synth pop bands in general. Years ago I attended the first show by Travis Morrison after he went solo. He was using lots of keyboards, percussions, and boy/girl vocals. Ugh. We left early. It was a bewilderingly bad performance. Thankfully he went back to a more traditional lineup which highlights his strengths. I often wondered what he was hoping to accomplish with that first post-Dismemberment Plan lineup. I found my answer on Thursday night.

Belaire's effortless vocal harmonies were backed by fun, quirky rhythms and unexpected transitions. They also added in a healthy dose of tambourine - never a bad move. The result was infectious tunes that put the crowd in a just the right mood for the headliners. After watching both Ringo Deathstarr and Beliare, it's hard not to be impressed by the vast amount of talent in Austin's indie rock community.

The marching stomps from their new single "Pot Kettle Black" poured out of the amps and announced the arrival of Tilly and the Wall. Soon after balloons and confetti were flying everywhere as the band took the stage. The ladies were adored in funky mod attire that matched their hopping dance moves. After a tap dance solo the band kicked into "Too Excited". It all made for a great first impression. It was reminiscent of an Of Montreal performance: part concert, part theater. Audience participation was highly encouraged and the crowd happily obliged.

As they progressed through their set I was reminded of The Long Blondes show we attended at the Rock & Roll Hotel in June of 2007. They put on a lively performance that we all agreed was top notch. The Long Blondes and Tilly and the Wall are what I consider radio bands. I'm unlikely to listen to one of their albums from start to finish but I'm happy when they're played on WOXY. I'll include them on a playlist but I'm no superfan. You get the idea. Nonetheless they're the type of band I enjoy seeing on a Friday or Saturday night. This show was on a Thursday night but it was the start of my three day weekend which made the show all the more fun.

They seem to have the live show down pat. After the strong start they cruised through the rest of the set. They captured the attention of the crowd right off the bat and didn't let up. The band cranked out playful pop with a relentless barrage of melodies and harmonies. It was all silly, light, and fun. Not always what I look for in live shows (this is Rock Club after all) but it was tough to deny the smiles on the people dancing along. The show only dipped in energy when they slowed the songs down. People were there to dance and bop around and were restless when the music didn't conform to their wishes. Songs such as "Pot Kettle Black", "Perfect Fit", and "Beat Control" were all winners with the crowd.

If your music tastes lean more towards pop than rock, Tilly and the Wall is the band for you. However, everyone should experience their live show at least once. Whether you'll want to see them over and over depends on your desire to dance at shows and how much you enjoy their live spectacle. For me, I'm happy leaving well enough alone. When a band is this good live they rarely match expectations the second time. We've seen it with Art Brut, The Long Blondes, and Fleet Foxes, just to name a few.

So, upon closer inspection my original opinion of Tilly and the Wall as a gimmicky band built on nepotism was off base. Their acclaim is not because of their famous friend, Mr. Oberst. They've earned their popularity with ever improving and imaginative albums and a great live show. Oh, and I was wrong about the gimmicky part too. They're original and there's a difference.


Jimbromski said...

WOXY's been playing "Blood Flower" a lot too, I like that sound...kind of a Mamas and the Papas sound to it.

Jumbo Slice said...

In an effort to keep my review to a reasonable length, which I struggle to do, I didn't mention this was my first trip to the legendary Emo's. They have three stages: outdoors, indoors, and a lounge. It's a pretty cool place. We should check it out when you guys visit in September. Also, they have cheap bottles of Papst which went down easy on Thursday but made for a rough weekend recovery.

Jimbromski said...

Never heard of Papst, I'm looking fwd to trying it

Potsy said...

Isn't that the beer that tastes like fish?