Blackpool Lights paid a welcome visit to Dallas last night in what I believe was their first trip here. Featuring Jim Suptic of the Get Up Kids on lead vocals and guitar, the band could be best described as straight-up, forward rock in the vein of the Replacements' Tim-era and Paul Westerberg's early solo records. Unlike the Replacements' reputation for dodgy live sets, Blackpool wasn't sloppy, drunken rock 'n' roll. They had a blast playing, despite the fact that twenty people were left in the venue by the time they played.
I missed the first band due to various factors, but I caught openers Days Away and House of Heroes. Days Away plays a pretty interesting mix of funk, chilled-out rock while also having a poppy, emoish side. However, this wasn't nasal screamo or fluffy posturing. This was good (their drummer was fantastic) albeit a little too jazzed out for my tastes. House of Heroes was good but something about them felt too calculated. When I mean calculated, I mean their songs, playing and what they wore all sounded/looked like they came from the school that over-tries to get on a major label. Not that this is an inheritantly bad thing, but they came across as a band that wants to appeal more to your teenage sister than anyone else.
With Blackpool Lights, all I knew was "This Town's Disaster" via their MySpace page and through Eric's blog. Plus, I heard they did the great Get Up Kids track, "Forgive and Forget" live. Well, they played both songs and a whole slew of other prime tracks from This Town's Disaster last night. The audience had dwindled considerably after House of Heroes played, leaving a number of older Get Up Kids fans (including me and my friend Jeremy) to watch. The band made the most of it, but I started to think.
In my time of doing interviews with ex-bandmembers of the bands I'm spotlighting for the book, none of their new bands have played to large crowds at the shows I've seen. Maritime played to maybe 30-40 people at Hailey's two summers ago. The Firebird Band played to puzzled young 'uns at the Door while they played to decent sized-crowds at the Gypsy Tea Room and Rubber Gloves. It's not like I expect all of the fans of bands like Get Up Kids, the Promise Ring and Braid to follow their ex-members in a live setting, but the carry-over seems way less.
As I thought about this, something hit me as Blackpool was finishing up their set: even the Get Up Kids played to small crowds once, so last night's sparsely-attended show was nothing new for Jim. I think the same can be said to the ex-members of Braid, the Promise Ring and others. They remember what it was like to play for thousands of people, yet they aren't throwing a fit when not a lot of people show up at their current shows.
For me, I think the most I've ever played to was a couple hundred people at the Aardvark in Fort Worth with Voigt. I played plenty of shows before and after that to far less people. Playing to small crowds is a test to see how much you really want to play. Yes, it is a lot more fun to play to a crowd that is of a decent size, but you never forget the shows to two people and members of the other bands on the bill.