Time for the obligatory “sorry for not posting more frequently” excuse. Suffice it to say that things are going really well at work, and I’m trying to get a lot of stuff done in a short period of time because a) I’m writing a grant and b) my lab is moving in less than a month.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t have time to go to shows. I actually went to the Casbah on Sunday night as well, for the final installment of The Visual Underground. I didn’t stay long enough to write a proper review about it, but I had a lot of fun and I was sad that I didn’t go to any of the other Visual Underground shows in the past five years that it’s been around.
Anyway, fast forward to Monday night. Alex from Swim Party was nice enough to hook P and I up with some free tix (and also a T-shirt for me!), so we arrived plenty early to make sure we didn’t miss a single song of their set. Of course, we would have done that anyway, because Swim Party is one hell of an impressive band. They write incredible melodies, pair them with Eric’s Modest Mouse-influenced vocals, and back it up with Alex and Petro’s formidable rhythm section – the result is a completely unique sound that always manages to blow away anyone within hearing distance. I was happy to see them getting some love, even if the bar was less than packed. And even if I didn’t love them so much as a band, I’d love them as a photographer because they bring their own supplemental lights to their shows.
Their short set consisted mostly of songs off of their EP, but also a couple new ones, including one I hadn’t heard before called “Tiempo Finales” which had a complicated time signature that I was definitely digging. I originally thought it was in 11/8, but after the show I brought it up with Alex and he said it was one measure in 6/6 time, followed by one measure of 5/6 time. It really made me think of Do Make Say Think, because they used a very similar time signature in one of their songs the last time I saw them, and it took me forever to figure out what it was written in. But musical geekiness aside, it was a lovely song, like all of their songs, and I can’t wait to hear their new album, whenever it comes out.
Next up was the Scottish band Frightened Rabbit, who also really impressed me. Although a bit more full-on rock than Swim Party, they also incorporated interesting time changes into their songs. Their drummer was incredibly talented, at one point even pulling out a harmonica to play while drumming like a madman. The singer/guitarist and the bassist also pulled their weight, don’t get me wrong. Altogether, their set was tight, they looked like they were having a fun time playing, and P was sufficiently impressed enough to buy a CD from them afterwards. And, you know, the accents didn’t hurt.
The final band of the evening was Quasi. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t heard of them before, but as soon as I read their history on wikipedia I was sold. Can I just say here that Janet Weiss has got to be the Kevin Bacon of indie rock? After playing in Sleater-Kinney and a whole host of other bands (including Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, as well as Bright Eyes), she can’t be much more than 6 degrees of separation away from any other indie rocker worth his/her salt.
Quasi is a band she started back in the early nineties with her ex-husband Sam Coomes. To me, they sounded somewhat like a more experimental and more rocking Ben Folds Five (although, chronologically speaking, it’s probably Ben Folds Five that sounds like a less experimental and less rocking Quasi). Sam’s singing style is very akin to Ben’s quirky tone, and a fair amount of their songs incorporate piano. But to tell the truth, their song styles veered from one end of the genre spectrum to the other Monday night. Incredibly impressive.
Some of the songs wandered a bit and sort of lost me, but overall I was enthralled with their sound. They managed to come off as completely dissonant but sweetly melodic at the same time. They always sort of teased at the dissonance, nudging it until it nudged back, and then it would all resolve into an incredible melody that would make me think I’ve known the song all of my life. I think the highlight for me was probably “It’s Raining,” one of their most straightforward pop songs of the evening, and consequently the one that sounded the most like Ben Folds to me. In fact, I was so happy with their set that I wasn’t put off in the least when Sam jumped off stage and knocked into me, stamping my foot pretty badly and making me worry for the safety of my camera.
Towards the end of their set, they opened up a bit and started interacting with the audience by telling a few jokes. One of Sam’s was, “A skeleton walk into a bar. He tells the bartender, ‘I’ll have a beer and a mop.'” But Janet’s jokes easily trumped his, if only because they were significantly dirtier. Example: “A man walks into a psychiatrist’s office wearing a pair of shorts made completely out of saran wrap. The psychiatrist says, ‘Well, I can clearly see your nuts.'” Even better example: “What’s the difference between jam and jelly? You can’t jelly your dick up my ass.” Even though the show wasn’t as sold out as it probably should have been, I got the feeling that everyone in the audience was paying attention to the band, and that they all felt as lucky to be there as I was. Now it’s time to start exploring their back catalogue – I’ve got a lot of catching up to do!