Long live rock, I need it every night

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Time Machine: Frightened Rabbit, Oxford Collapse, and Peel

The innovations never stop here at DC Rock Club. We recently introduced the vreview, the Review-Preview, YouTubesDay and today we roll out our newest feature: The Time Machine. What's the Time Machine? It's a fancy name I give a review I've sat on for weeks because I'm: a) lazy b) attending to my wife and newborn child c) being really, really lazy or d) busy making lists like this. Our first Time Machine show features one of the best triple bills I've seen in quite some time: Frightened Rabbit, Oxford Collapse, and Peel.

I arrived at the Mohawk early expecting a sellout. Well, can it really be a sellout if the show is free. Seriously, it was a free show sponsored by Camel cigarettes. Thanks Joe! My expectations were high for good reason. It's rare I look forward to all three bands (a testament to the Mohawk which always gets the best groups). The night had a Battle Of The Bands feel to it. Some people were there to root on the locals (Peel), others came for the bristling energy of Oxford Collapse while others were there for the much hyped (by me and the rest of blogosphere) Frightened Rabbit. Let's see who prevailed...

A number of Austin bands have made a name for themselves in indie rock. Spoon, Voxtrot, Black Angels, And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, and Explosions in the Sky to name a few. But the Austin group I was most curious about was Peel. Their self titled debut is a fun, fuzzy, poppy (not poopy) album . It's only a matter of time before the rest of the country takes notice. They just released a follow up EP, August Exhaust Pipes, which can be downloaded for free. Do it. Trust me.

I was surprised the club was only half full when Peel took the stage. The band was undeterred. "Tejax" highlighted Dakota Smith's scratchy vocal delivery that has many people comparing him to Stephen Malkmus.

Side Note: don't all indie comparison eventually lead back to Pavement? We get a lot of emails from bands/promoters and I always cringe when I see another reference to Pavement. I'm tempted to reply "You're an indie band who likes Pavement? No fucking way! You should totally check out this other band - they're called the Pixies!" To Peel's credit, they aren't the ones making the comparison. Only jackasses like me do that. And back to the review...

"Exhaust Pipes" off their new EP was a pleasant ditty sandwiched between their more rocking songs. They finished strong with "Oxford" followed by "Workers, Wake Up!".

Peel didn't disappoint but the early start time (8:00 PM) worked against them. There was the dreaded gap at the front of the stage. People were hanging back which made it harder for the band to connect with the audience. The crowd was engaged but hardly energized. Had Peel played last it would've been a completely different scene. I look forward to seeing Peel in a smaller venue where they can feed off the crowd a bit more.

A few closing points on Peel:

  • Drummer was a large bald and bearded guy who, with some leather chaps and vest, would make a great bear in a Gay Pride parade. Basically he looks like Sacklunch.

  • I love that Peel uses the keyboards less for melodies and more for distortion and layering.

  • Peel is like sex. They're both at their best when it's a little sloppy.

Overall, I give Peel a 6.3. I expect that number to go higher the next time I see them live.

When Oxford Collapse first took the stage I wasn't sure what was happening. They were billed as the headliners yet they were going on before Frightened Rabbit. I figured it was a co-headlining tour and they alternated dates. After they started I asked Mark, the general manager at the Mohawk, why they were playing first. He didn't know either. More on this later...

I shared the same disappointment as Potsy that the lead singer wasn't rocking the jean shorts. For some reason that cracked us up last year at the Pitchfork Music Festival. Before starting their set they asked the crowd to move closer to the stage. The gap didn't do Peel any favors and they wanted to avoid the same mistake. It was a good move too because from the instant they began the crowd was feeding off their energy. The bassist was especially animated. Unlike Peel's stoic bassist, Adam Rizer jumped and thrashed around like he was on fire. I focused on him to see if his playing skills matched his onstage theatrics ("all hat and no cattle" as they say here in Texas). The guy can definitely play. In fact, he was the best bassist I'd seen in a while.

The solid start got even better when they played "Lady Lawyers". It was a perfect example of their tight but loose style. The band are all on the same page with their timing, transitions, and energy but it's not a polished sound. It's a little garage rock and I mean that in the best way possible.

They had been ramping up and were ready to crush when they launch into my favorite song Oxford Collapse song, "Please Visit Your National Parks". And then the technical difficulties started. The guitar amp went out. The drummer and bassist valiantly tried to keep it going but eventually gave up. The bassist declared it their "dance re-mix". It took a while to get the sound back up on the amp and much of their momentum was lost. Once they started again they kept up their energy but seemed distracted. There were a few other sound problems that bothered the bands performance. The lead singer after one song "I fucked up so bad" and "I thought a cat ran onstage and messed with my cord" after another.

Unable to recapture the intensity of the first half of the show the energy faded towards the end. Despite the sound problems I still enjoyed the set very much. It just wasn't their best work. You gathered this by the demeanor and banter of the band. Fucking technical difficulties.

I give Oxford Collapse a 6.7.

Okay, this post is getting a bit long. I have an idea. How to make a suspect concept even worse? That's right - make it a two-parter. The next Time Machine post will cover Frightened Rabbit, my conversations with various band members, and how my night spiralled into a drunken haze.


Potsy said...

please don't group "leather chaps," "sacklunch," and "sloppy sex" in a sentence or set of bullet points ever again.


I'm also offended that MY video from pitchfork was not the one linked... and you want to throw a party at my pad when I'm away...? Hmpf.

Jumbo Slice said...

I guess that imagery is a bit much early in the morning. Good thing we didn't go with the Wank-Off Wednesday idea.

Did we ever decide who won the 2007 Thorkelson award for best original video? You're clearly our A/V expert, but Jimbromski's submission was pretty strong. Nonetheless, I should have linked to both videos. Especially since I was referencing your amusement at the jean shorts.

Jimbromski said...

Dude, I won it, in a walk.

Potsy said...

Yours vid was first to market, so that hurt my chances from the start. Still, don't be so proud. I shot all that footage, after all.

Jimbromski said...

Yeah, when I sent it out, everyone was like, wow, that's great, except for you, who said pretty much what you said just now, which is why the Academy chose not to award you a Thorkelson.

True, most of the footage is yours, but I shot a good bit myself. Everything would have been improved if Sack and JS got shared their footage, which they never did. Imagine how awesome our movies would have been if that had happened.

Potsy said...

Agreed. Slackers.

Jimbromski said...

Pitchfork: The Lost Footage

Won't let it happen again for ACL, believe me.

Jumbo Slice said...

I really didn't have much video to share. Just some crappy Battles footage and the crowds during Dan Deacon. I need to get a new memory card. Right now it only holds a few minutes of video. I'll upgrade in time for ACL.