Monday, February 22, 2010

We Were Promised Valentine’s Day

There's no sappy Valentine's Day drivel here. Instead of spending money on some girl by purchasing questionable gifts that most likely give no indication as to how I feel, I bought a ticket to see We Were Promised Jetpacks at the Middle East in Cambridge, MA. While everyone wanted me to sulk in the vast vortex of loneliness that is my life (damn you media/Hallmark holiday/co-workers/friends!), I spent my February 14, 2010 seeing some great bands and having fun. Take that corporations who don't want me to be single because I only spend money on beer and concerts!

It's been awhile since I actually watched every band on a bill but I was so glad that I did this time. Royal Bangs kicked the night off and made a convincing case that they could have been headlining themselves. They benefitted from one of the best live mixes I've heard at a Middle East show which really brought out the energy they possessed. This group knows how to get into a serious groove often with the bassist going off in the background. The singer had plenty of vigor while also playing keys and contributing to dual drumming on some songs. He added ample amount of soul to songs like "Handcuff Killa" which brought them to the next level. Together, the talent of these musicians made it almost impossible not to bob your head and kick your legs around with every beat.

I was wondering how well they could pull off their complex sound which includes noise rock mixed with blues and electronic flourishes. I was impressed by the fact that not only did they accurately recreate their uniquely danceable tunes but also embellished them with moments of pure rocking out. The highlight of which was "Brother" from their debut record We Breed Champions. They sliced and diced through each crescendo making the song quite a memorable live experience. Other highlights included the thumping punch of recent single "War Bells" and the psychedelic freak-out of "My Car is Haunted".

Bad Veins played next and it must have been tough to follow the spectacle Royal Bangs had just put on. The group was by no means bad but they were much less exciting in comparison. Many of the songs were ballad-like and carried by singer/guitarist Benjamin Davis's quivering vocals. The vocals were way too high in the mix but did get better as the band went on and played louder. Davis often sang into a telephone which I thought actually sounded better than the regular microphone and the slight distortion lent well to the timbre of his voice. Drummer Sebastien Schultz laid down some excellent beats which completely transformed some of the songs.

The two-piece had emo influences and leaned more towards the accessible and catchy side of the rock world. I wasn't too into the first two songs but the third one, "Crosseyed", was significantly better than the rest. It contained the clever line "Can you tell me how to get out from between what I say and what I mean" and it also had an exceptional synth riff in the bridge that reminded me of Passion Pit. The track comes from their self-titled debut. The crowd seemed to enjoy the set but I just thought the band would have worked better as the opening band on this particular bill.

We Were Promised Jetpacks had traveled all the way from Scotland for this tour and they definitely wanted to prove something to American audiences. Their set began with the epic eight-plus minute long "Keeping Warm". This was used ingeniously to build tension and draw the crowd in with the spacey jam that opens the song. They immediately shook up the crowd with a rousing version of their aggressive single "Quiet Little Voices". Fans adequately filled in the string of "oh"s that lines the chorus. The performance was so intense that the band became unhinged and quickly had to break before igniting back up. It was done so smoothly that you could barely tell anything went wrong.

They played almost all of the tracks from their impressive 2009 debut These Four Walls. Songs like "Roll up Your Sleeves" and "This is My House, This is My Home" had no problem captivating listeners and prompting fans to sing along. The former is a personal favorite and its soaring chorus had me completely engulfed in the moment. They kept everyone entranced with their remarkable shoegaze jams where the group displayed how well their individual chops could collide into a solid tune. The band also played a new song from an EP they just recorded for the purpose of releasing on this tour. It showcased frontman Adam Thompson's ability to create crushing, passionate choruses that force you to feel what he is singing about.

The band were putting it all out there for the crowd and getting plenty of love back. Although, Thompson did joke stating "Anyone who brought a girl here for Valentine's Day; it was a shit idea." The audience was fantastic at this show and graciously rewarded the band with unrelenting applause after every song. It is always good to see a show where everyone is really into the band and that appeared to be the case in this situation. The crowd had no problem singing along with the group and wanted an encore so badly that they were still crying for one while the drum kit was being disassembled. It was a Valentine's Day show where fans were happy to give love to the band pouring their hearts out on stage.

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