Even with last week's post on bloggers still on my mind, I had a wonderful time at the Gypsy Tea Room last night with the line-up of Cold War Kids, Figurines and Tapes 'n Tapes. All throughout the night, I kept thinking why so many people packed the place despite all the press the headliner has received recently. I kept thinking about what makes these three bands unique. Ultimately, I had to let the music and the presentation do the explaining.
LA's Cold War Kids plays a kind of music that has a heavy emphasis on walking/stomping rhythms. This made for a good beat to bop my head to as the songs built and built. On top of these beats are elements of gospel, jagged indie rock and hooky piano rock. Visually, these guys move. They move so much that I must say that I hadn't seen a band move so much on stage since I saw AFI six years ago. The guitarist, bassist and singer all played musical chairs around spots on the stage, all while playing extremely aggressively. Being up front for their set was great, but seeing Figurines up in front was a special treat for me.
I make no secret that I love Skeleton, the band's second album. Seeing them play a short little in-store at Good Records a few hours before the show (thanks to We Shot JR for the heads-up), their main set delivered all of the goods. Since I'm a huge fan of melodic guitar rock played at quick pace, my brain was going haywire. Since Figurines exude a number of things I like about tuneful indie rock, seeing them live was the organic next step after listening to them almost non-stop for the last couple of months. Seeing the high vocal harmonies and sliding guitar lines were especially sights to see.
Now with Tapes 'n Tapes, this was a much better show than the last time I saw them. The key difference? The venue. Simply, the soundsystem at the Tea Room was better suited for the band. Tapes 'n Tapes has an overall vibe that goes from whisper quiet to loud and raunchy. When the quiet parts feel loud and muffled, key intimate moments get lost. This was not the case as the band put on the best set of the night. The flow, the mood and the punchy nature of their material really shined the brightest for me (despite really losing my mind during the Figurines' set).
Letting the music say so much, thoughts are still kicking around my head about how I could explain why this show was, as a friend of Jason's told him about a show a few months ago, "hipster high." I'm sure there were plenty of people that were there last night to see what the fuss is about with Tapes 'n Tapes. However, where I was standing, the people around me were not casual observers. A number of people enthusiastically cheered when opening riffs were played and they sang along throughout.
At some point of the night, I think I came up with the best possible reason why a certain amount of people are attracted to this music: there are no gimmicks, no bullshit and no rock star attitudes. Thus, the music that they create is not something you can say sounds like any commodified version of music out there. I know, plenty of music with gimmicks and rock star attitudes can still make great music, but with the people I saw out in the audience last night, they were seeing reflections of themselves on the stage. Turns out that the people onstage make some good music and are really genuine people.
I had the privilege of chatting with members of Figurines and Tapes 'n Tapes at various points of the night. At no time did I ever feel like I was talking to some star or an untouchable god. These were guys I could talk to at a party about the same things and almost forget that they play in a band that I like. No matter how many times I say this, this is the kind of interaction I like between fans and bands feels fresh for me. With the kind of music they make, I have a better understanding of why people are into what they're doing.
With a lot of the modern music that bloggers often talk up, they're talking about music that isn't coming from a cheese factory, a major label factory or a star-making factory. Sure, plenty of bloggers (including myself) are guilty of talking up a band and then seemingly forget about them. I argue that there is so much stuff to listen to, plenty of stuff can be lost in the shuffle or accidentally forgotten about. As much as we search for the music we want to hear, the convenience of essentially being handed something is more accommodating. However, if what we're being handed doesn't cut the mustard, that makes us press on even more.
I honestly doubt there is some sort of race going on with bloggers on who "discovered" a band or artist first. Sure, people may get a kick out of being the first to post on a "talkback" section, but that kick lasts about as long as cotton candy fills you up. The people that I know that talk up acts like Sufjan Stevens, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and the Knife aren't trying to win scene points or credibility. There are certain elements that they dig and well, they just want to share them with people. I think matters could be much worse if they weren't shared at all.