The Winterpills played a straight set of pop that sounded as seamless as a record. Though musically practiced, the theatrics were tired and perfunctory; aside from the two front persons, the rest of the band was like marionettes. Particularly awkward was the electric guitarist, who held his axe so low with a face so paranoid, I wondered if perhaps he stole the thing. The Bic Runga-resembling backing vocalist, Flora Reed, had the most presence as well as an exquisitely pretty voice. I would not be surprised to see her, if not the Winterpills, again -- and perhaps lead singer Philip Price in Back to the Future IV, if Christopher Lloyd is unavailable.
Stars of Track and Field are a threesome of ridiculously good looking Frenchmen: Jason Bell, Kevin Calaba, and Daniel Orvik. Okay, so they are from Portland, Ore., but they are still ridiculously good looking. Is that all? Surprisingly, no!
If you're like me, you've wondered what the Postal Service or Did would sound like if they were angrier, cooed like Michael Stipe -- and were ridiculously good looking. If you were at the High Noon, you found out with the second band. Drawing on the formulas of one part backing track and three parts instrumentation, the songs are full and thick, reminiscent of recent Linkin Park or lighter Deftones without the screams.
Their light show sucked the audience into a visual vortex that played up their swirling electric guitar and echoic vocals ("Centuries") rather than their high cheek bones. The mystique created by the planetarium antics was somewhat foiled by the size of the venue and the joking and speaking between songs. Secret Machines, although a much heavier band overall, use a similar visual style and don't utter a word, creating a daunting emotional experience. Hopefully Stars of Track and Field will return with a tighter grasp on the ambience they intend to create.
The event: Siren Fest 2005. The act: experimental punk-jazz band Q & Not U. The feeling: Mixed elation and sorrow for seeing a fabulous band's last show -- ever. Fast forward to yesterday. The act: Bound Stems. The feeling: revitalization of ears that have waited for two years -- for this. Bound Stems are not BS but the real thing.
Despite technical difficulties, Bound Stems still warbled, sweated, smiled and jammed with their unique, quirky songs, tongue-twisting lyrics and intricate beats. Although not as revved and joyous as their last Madison show at Club 770, they still delivered. All parties in the band seem equally immersed in and connected to the music -- and each other.
During "Wake Up, Ma and Pa Are Gone," Bobby Gallivan and Janie Porche stared straight at each other, singing their "Hey-yeah-yeah!"s so strongly you could see the ties that bind. On the final song, "Risking Life and Limb for the Coupon," all parties smiled and crowded around the kit, ripping into the music like dogs hungry for the last bone. The torch of amped, intelligent indie bands is carried mightily by Bound Stems.
If the quality of a band is judged by whether they can entice a Rastafarian to dance with a stick and conjure two middle-aged folks to viciously maul/makeout with each other, then Seattle's The Long Winters were worth the wait.
Lead singer John Roderick connected to the audience like an old friend I'd known for years, even with his self-proclaimed "pervy" mustache. The guys brought the house to their feet with a new-school classic rock sound that bore myriad influences heard here and there. A refreshed Replacements hook! A not-so-musical-theater Ben Folds piano lick! A dance-in-your-garage Bryan Adams sort of jam?!
In between taking requests and cracking jokes, Roderick played and sang tunes that were catchy as hell with fellow musicians that the crowd went nuts for -- especially bassist and backing vocalist, Eric Corson. (As an audience member shouted, his tenor backing vox really were great.) Songs like "Honest," "Rich Wife," "The Commander Thinks Aloud," and "When I Pretend to Fall" (which boasts a great call and response between Roderick and guitarist Jonathan Rothman) are still stuck in my head.
My only gripe: why didn't they play here sooner?
Note: There is more discussion about the show on TDPF.