Show Review: Swim Party, The Roman Spring, The Focus Group @ Ken Club, 2/2/08

So, holy crap, the Ken Club changed out the light bulbs over their stage. I think I might actually be able to take photos there now without flash. A few more lights wouldn’t help, but I’m glad to see the venue finally doing something to fix things up.

And along those lines, they now have a new PA. And what a difference it makes! Whereas it used to be that you walked out of the place saying, “Well, Band X sounded about as good as a band could at the Ken Club,” you can know say, “Wow, Band X sounded great.” And such was my feeling for all the bands that played Saturday night.

The only band on the bill that I was unfamiliar with was the first one – The Focus Group. Love the name, by the way. They played very guitar-driven rock, which sounded familiar, regardless of never having heard them before. It reminded KL of Minus the Bear and myself of Built to Spill, especially the song “Sting of Hail.” They had a little bit of a post-rock vibe too, with long stretches of instrumentation without vocals. The singer had great stage presence as well, which had both KL and I crushing on him a bit towards the end of their set. What can I say – I’m a sucker for a man with charisma. Maybe because I’m a little awkward myself?

Next up was The Roman Spring. I can’t believe that it’s been months since the last time I saw them. But in that time, this band has grown up a whole lot. They sound a lot tighter than they used to, and they’ve got more of a British vibe. To my ears, they sounded a little bit like Franz Ferdinand – definitely more dancey and less grungy than a few months ago. It’s been a treat to see Alex, their singer, really evolve into a confident frontman in such a short time.

The last band of the night was It’s Too Sunny Out Here faves Swim Party. I can’t gush about this band enough, and it’s not just because all three guys that make up the band are such sweethearts. I got into their music before I knew any of them, I swear. I was positively blown away when I saw them at the Che Cafe with The Prayers last summer, and every show I’ve seen them play since has only gotten better. They’re slowly debuting new songs, as they’ve just finished recording a full-length CD. They played one, “Pariah,” that I’ve heard a couple of times before, and another one that I’ve never heard before, as well as all the gems off their 2006 EP. Which, by the way, is pretty much sold out. Out of all 300 beautifully packaged copies, only 3 remain – 1 at M-Theory in Mission Hills, and 2 at Lou’s in Encinitas. Pick it up while you can!

The only momentary setback in their show was right before their last song (personal favorite and overall great tune “Twenty-Five”), when their lighting setup went out. I’m not sure what the problem was, if it was a blown fuse or something else, but they regained power to their instruments and amps and soldiered on, sans lights. The crowd had thinned out a bit by the end of the night, but pretty much everyone in attendance felt the same way about the show that I did. It was KL’s first time seeing them, and she bought their EP, as well as a T-shirt, straightaway. I would have to say that it was hands down the best show I’ve ever seen at the Ken Club, and I can’t wait to see the guys again at the Casbah next Monday at Tim Pyles’ Anti-Monday League.