Live Review: Loud Rock Reigns at Showbox SoDo

On Thursday night I had the opportunity to see a show at the Showbox SoDo featuring indie rock titans Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Death From Above 1979.  The spacious converted warehouse provided a nice backdrop to one of the loudest concert experiences I’ve ever had.  Seriously, if you’re seeing a show here any time soon, bite the bullet and spring for some earplugs.  You’ll regret it if you don’t.  I tend to prefer more intimate concert experiences; smaller, sweatier venues are really more my style.  The SoDo isn’t that at all, with its high ceilings and air-conditioned floor.  Still, the show was a good one.

The openers for the two main acts were L.A. punk duo Deap Vally, who brought a lot of energy into a raucous, noisy set.  Featuring Karen O-like wails from lead singer Lindsey Troy, the band crashed through a tight set, capped with standout closer “Royal Jelly”.  Deap Vally is touring behind their sophomore LP, Femejism, and they injected a lot of life into the smaller crowd, as people clearly there for one headliner or another started to trickle onto the main floor.  There were plenty of reminders that they were an opener; they played in front of a looming DFA1979 graphic, and mentioned their opener status multiple times.  However, they did a great job in that role.

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The second act of the night was Death From Above 1979, another duo, but this time one from Toronto.  These two have been revered in the indie scene since the release of their debut LP, 2004’s You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine (which I would absolutely recommend giving a listen), and even though they’re both well into their thirties, they brought an incredible energy to the set.  Drummer and vocalist Sebastien Grainger screamed his heart out and thrashed his kit, and bassist Jesse Keeler kept an unreal air of cool as he tore through some very technical and challenging riffs on his heavily distorted and booming bass.  Though it was during these guys’ set that I started to notice exactly how loud it was in the venue, I didn’t really care: they absolutely killed it.  They put an extended middle section into You’re a Woman… single “Romantic Rights”, which turned out to be probably the highlight of the night, as they built the anticipation up for almost two minutes before laying into another incredible minute of the track.  As they left to an impressive light display, it was clear that the bar for the next band was set very high.

Finally, out stepped the true veterans of the night.  Around since their formation in 1998, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were the elder statesmen of the evening, and their set started to show signs of fatigue.  The band hasn’t released a new album since 2013’s The Spectre at the Feast, and although that record is a decent one, it has started to become apparent that they need some new material.  Though they did well at the start (with the highlight track from Spectre, “Let the Day Begin”, breathing some life into the set), the rest of the set was less than inspiring.  Noise fatigue had started to settle in for me, and going from the incredible energy of DFA1979 to the more subdued, bluesy BRMC set was not a great transition for the latter band.  They put on a brave face, but their set, and likely their audience as well, are starting to get tired.

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The show was punctuated with some great lighting as well, setting an ominous tone for BRMC’s set that works well for their style.  It was a good show in a big venue, and even though I felt the SoDo’s size for every second of every set, I had a blast.

A good show for listeners of: The Black Keys, The Dead Weather, Japandroids, Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Sample Tracks:

Deap Vally: “Royal Jelly”

Death From Above 1979: “Right On, Frankenstein!”  “Romantic Rights”

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: “Let the Day Begin”  “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo”

John Morse

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Quick talk: Glass Animals’ brilliance

AGH. I can’t.
Let’s talk about Glass Animals.

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First of all, Glass Animals are English (and gorgeous). They’re an indie rock band. And they’re from Oxford.

Are we up my alley, or are we? But regardless, these guys are still solid musicians. For once, I don’t want to rush through an entire album for you to get a taste of these guys’ sound.

I want to talk about “Gooey,” on the June 2014 LP ZABA, because this one track captures the real essence of what Glass Animals’ sound is and what they’re about.

First of all, this song is full of sexual innuendos, so if you’re awkward about it, kindly step off. We’ve got lyrics like “Ride my little pooh bear and “You just wanna know those peanut butter vibes,” but you know what? The lyrics are smooth, and supple and lead vocalist Dave Bayley’s slippery falsetto snakes around seeping basslines and psychedelic beats.

This song feels like you’re in a dream, with these sleek, texturized lyrics and lullaby sounding instrumentals. It’s strange listening to this song, because you feel like you are personally being crooned to, with Bayley’ vocals whispering in your ear, “While my naked naked fool/Fresh out of an icky gooey womb.”

There is a level of sophistication with these guys, and I’m not surprised, when you have Dave Bayley as frontman, with a degree in neuroscience from London’s King’s College. What intelligent man wouldn’t know how to perfectly craft together such a beautiful combination of intricate beats, trippy vocals, and mellow interludes of R&B? Listen, and tell me you won’t fall in love.

Because what’s not to love when there are other tracks like “Toes” that are equally as brilliant with smooth harmonies and complex lyricicsm. You’ve got this lingering swagger that is the essence of the song, with sparse percussion and underlying bass. It’s slow-tempo and it’s stripped down, lacking lots of synth and lots of energy, but it’s what makes the song great. It’s these little nuances that make Glass Animals distinctive.

Any band that’s touring right now with St. Vincent, and was signed by brilliant producer Paul Epworth (think Florence & the Machine, Bloc Party, and Adele) is a band worth listening to. And you’ve got that opportunity to, with an upcoming show at Neptune Theatre on May 24th.

Get tickets here, and just thank me later.

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Ariana Rivera