So here it is, June 1, and i need a jacket to go outside! And this is in Georgia, a semi-tropical state -- how weird is that? Anyway, on this, the coldest June day that i can remember, how appropriate is it to see The Futureheads, a band from the far frigid north of England, kick off their current US tour?
I feel that i must make a disclaimer about this show, so here it is:
DISCLAIMER: Tickets to this show were provided by the good folks at WEA. That's Warner-Elektra-Atlanta, the big record label. You see, The Futureheads record for their subsidiary Sire Records, and they sent us the tickets in order to foster publicity. I feel that, as a schmoe who writes about music, i need to let you, the review reading public, be aware of any possible conflict of interest. Not that i think there is one in this case, as i was planning on shelling out the $10 to see this show anyway, but still -- i want to keep you informed.
Okay, that said, this was a fun show. It was also the first time i have ever been to The Loft, which is the upstairs area of Earthlink Live. Earthlink Live used to be called The Center Stage Theater, and i saw many shows there back in the late 80s and early 90s (Pixies, Replacements, Billy Bragg, Gene Loves Jezebel, That Petrol Emotion, The Pogues, etc.), so this place always has a certain bit of nostalgia for me. Even so, this is the first time i have ever been upstairs -- in fact i didn't even know that they had an upstairs!
Apparently the space is new, or at least newly renovated. It had a certain cleanness which implies to me that the folks at Earthlink are working hard to make this into a viable venue, so let's talk about the actual place for a moment. First off, it's downtown, on West Peachtree, which means that you have to pay to park. This really angers me -- if people are going to design our damned city so that you have to drive everywhere, then parking should be provided. I think that every time the DOT widens a road or puts another lane on a highway, they should be required to build a public parking deck in some abandoned lot....
The club, as i said above, was remarkably clean, even the restrooms, which is saying something for a place where people go to drink lots of beer. The beer selection, on the other hand, sucked eggs. No draft beer at all, and for bottles they had a crap selection at $4 per bottle. Paying $4 for a MGD really annoys me. My recommendation to The Loft is to get some taps put in, please! Now, to their benefit, The Loft has 4 bars, so on a busy night, getting a drink shouldn't be an issue. Only two were open tonight though. The place even has some nice lounge areas, with couches. These were sealed off too, i guess in expectation of a less than capacity crowd.
The music space itself is kind of odd. The stage is set up against one wall, next to one of the working bars. In front of the stage, there is a nice open space, but it includes some support pillars. I understand that you need these to keep the ceiling up, but they do create "dead spaces" wherein one cannot see the stage at all. If i ever went to a really crowded show here, that could be a problem. To their benefit, the sound was excellent. I made a point of standing in different parts of the club to see what i could hear, and no matter where i was, the sound from the stage was crisp and clear. Apparently, they did a really good job of setting up the sound system. So, kudos to them for that.
Okay, enough about the venue, let's talk music. There were three bands tonight. I guess it's a Warner package tour.
The first band was called Pitty Sing, and they went on promptly at 9 PM. Good to see that they run a tight ship at this place. Pitty Sing are a four piece band consisting of drummer, bassist, singer/vocalist, and keyboardist. They opened with a song that was remarkable for its utter genericness. Seriously: i felt like i was in a Gap commercial listening to a pop punk band playing a completely normal current radio tune.
However, after a few songs like that, they shifted it up a bit. The keyboardist picked up a guitar to play on the choruses, adding a nice reggae downbeat to the more frenetic parts of their tunes. That plus his use of an old school synthesizer made the bulk of Pitty Sing's set sound like good old fashioned 80s new wave. Now, i love that stuff, and i really liked hearing the hint of reggae in their music. I actually found myself enjoying the majority of their show, except for their few "radio tunes", wherein the band subverts their new wave influences in order to appear more generically modern.
Overall they were interesting, and i found more songs enjoyable than not. So i will keep an eye out for Pitty Sing, and i encourage them to run with their new wave fondness. The world just doesn't need another band playing crunchy power chords over light keyboards.
The next band was called The High Speed Scene, and even though i have never
heard of them they have apparently been around for a while. They kept mentioning
songs that they weren't going to play "because it's old", but did play some
tunes that got a favorable response from some of the crowd.
The High Speed Scene are a three piece power pop band. I would say that they are a clean cut version of The Alkaline Trio. Rather than tattooed ex-punks singing catchy pop music over Green Day-esque power chords, these were three normal looking guys in golf shirts doing the same sort of music.
Although they weren't bad by any stretch of the imagination, they didn't do anything for me either. I thought that their music sounded too much like a dozen other bands, and they did nothing to distinguish themselves. Still, a couple of the tunes were really catchy. So The High Speed Scene were a mixed bag.
Finally, just before 11, The Futureheads walked on to a stage full of smoke and flashing lights. The light show was elaborate, and it almost looked like something out of This is Spinal Tap. However, after that, the smoke machine calmed down.
The Futureheads play angular post-punk with intolerably catchy rhythms. They remind me a lot of The Gang of Four, although with more of a rock focus, while Gang of Four seemed to almost be a dance band to me. I also find that The Futureheads' music comes across better live than it does on their debut album, although that might very well be because of the friendly, fun energy that the band projects. They are up on stage, bouncing around, grinning like they are having too much fun for their own good, and their energy really translates to the crowd.
There are several things to like about the band's music. Firstly, they are all excellent musicians, and all 4 members can harmonize rather well -- a feat which is rarely repeated in a band. Their rhythms are also great -- i kept bouncing in place! It's like you cannot help but pogo while The Futureheads are playing. Those pogo friendly rhythms plus the lovely harmonizing really make their music, at least for me.
They played the bulk of their debut album, including a rollicking good version of Carnival Kids, as well as a few new tunes. Their new stuff pretty much sounds like their current stuff, so don't expect an experimental new album from the lads. They also played two covers: an excellent version of the Television Personalities' Picture of Dorian Gray, and their fun version of Kate Bush's The Hounds of Love. They turned the Bush cover into a crowd singalong, getting the room to sing the "Oh OH oh" vocal rhythmic parts along with them. Very fun.
Overall, well, i got to try out a new club, and on someone else's tab at that. I saw two bands that i would definitely go see again, and one that i will not go out of my way to avoid. Overall, i think that's a pretty good evening.