Now You Are One of Us

A few weeks ago, I blogged about how a certain record store didn’t act like they knew how to handle an in-store performance. Well, seeing the pAper chAse do an in-store at Good Records last night, I was reminded of how cool they can be and most importantly, how fun they can be.

Right before the band started playing, they turned out the main lights in the place, thus letting the residual sunlight in. There was plenty of natural light coming in at 7 o’clock, and the place was packed with people. I had never seen the band play live before even though I’ve know a couple of band members for a while. I’m not sure if they play out in D/D/FW that much, but I could be wrong. They played a mostly metal/hard rock show at the Granada a few weeks back and I passed on going. I figured they would play some place a little more accommodating soon and I was right. Being ten minutes away from Good Records and with the show being free to get in, I had no excuses.

For this show, none of the weird atmospheric stuff on their records would be present. No drums were set up (the drummer wasn’t even there) and no samplers were used; all that they used was a stand-up bass, a cello, a piano and an acoustic guitar. This was definitely going to sound different from the band’s recorded material, but that’s was fine by me. I figure I will see the band’s full electric set-up someday; here was just an alternate view.

Though I don’t have any of the band’s records or have really heard much of their stuff, I do know that the band’s music is a little, well, off-the-beaten path. Mathy, a tad caustic, maybe a little baroque, all with some stabs of melody, the pAper chAse isn’t some band that you can fit into a mall rack and sell strictly to teenagers. Promoting their new album, Now You Are One of Us, with a number of tracks from it, they played incredibly well to a really receptive audience. Going in cold with no expectations, I was impressed. I might not rush out and get their stuff right now, but I did like what I heard.

A key factor in the pAper chAse sound is one of “wrong” notes. You know, those notes that the band director would stop a song in rehearsal because somebody played them? These notes aren’t in the key that everyone else is playing in, so they are gonna sound weird. Well, “wrong” notes are a major part of the guys’ songs. While cacophonic tones don’t always go over well with music fans, I gotta give the band credit for not being afraid of them. Certain notes on the piano, guitar, cello and bass may not be in the same key, but that’s a part of what makes them unique. I doubt they do this to be different. I think it’s them really knowing how to play their instruments but not being confined by the traditional rules of music theory.

Despite the stripped-down nature of the performance, the “wrong” notes were on full display, but if you only paying attention to them, you’d be missing out on the whole picture. These guys write some great songs with some great lyrics, all while putting the focus on writing material that is truly their own. If playing a song on an acoustic guitar is the litmus test for the vitality of a song, then the pAper chAse pass the test in my book.