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Only For The Night – RxB [Feedback]
Aug 4th, 2009 by Dan

Caught another live show of one of my favorite bands last week at the Recher Theatre in Towson, MD. The act was Rx Bandits and Dredg with Zechs Marquise opening and it was a great show.

The Recher is a great venue for these smaller shows. They’ve got bars on two of the walls of their rectangle, there’s more than enough room for a decent-sized show, and the size of the place gives you a nice intimate feeling with the bands that are playing. Like most shows, nothing really goes on for the openers. There might be a few diehard fans come to see the band play, but in general the crowd is mostly dispersed and moderately interested. The beauty of that night’s opener was that Zechs Marquise was playing a solid set and they actually got some of the more skeptical and jaded members of the audience, such as myself, interested in what they were doing up on stage. A mostly experimental group, their sound is complex with two guitars and a drummer, but no lyrics. The genre makes sense, considering that it seems to be a Mars Volta side project. I made a note in my iPod to check them out when I got home and consider a purchase, but then I saw that they were selling their album, Our Delicate Stranded Nightmare, for $10, so I thought “What the heck?” and I put down a Hamilton. What a mistake. I really should have taken some time to listen to them online first, because, and I’ve only made it through about eight tracks, but none of the complex rock guitars with drums I was hearing on stage seems to be on the disc. Instead I’ve got what initially seems like an hour of vaguely creepy-sounding ambient music, which would be fantastic if I had a haunted house, but seems pretty useless to me now. I’ll continue to give the disc a listen, but it hasn’t made a strong impression so far.

Their set was fantastic, I can’t deny that, so perhaps they’re a band best heard live instead of on CD, a real rarity in this world. At one point Steve Choi, keyboard player for the Bandits, came out and started rocking out with them. It was pretty cool. If they’re opening for a band you like, I’d recommend showing up early enough to catch their set.

Given how much I’ve gushed about the Bandits on the site before, I’m sure most of you can predict what I thought of their set. Like I’ve said before, their recording process is unique in that they give themselves only a few attempts and only overdub the vocals, horns, and some percussion in post-production. Since they haven’t got any horns anymore, it results in a set that sounds very organic and close to the CD, which has the unintended consequence of making it feel like I’m listening to a CD at times.

Rx opened with a Central American-inspired drum circle containing members of the band. This Latin influence was felt within their latest album, Mandala, and it definitely made its presence shown right at the start of the set. Given that Mandala launched the week prior to the show, it made sense for the band to play a few songs from the new album along with the older classics. Matt Embree and Steve Choi rocked out on guitars and I got to see a funny, lighthearted side of Embree when the cymbals on Christopher Tsagakis’ drum set seemed to be malfunctioning. As he tried to repair his kit by salvaging the cymbals off of another drum set, Matt started to play cymbals with the end of his guitar to try and keep the song sounding how it should. Another great moment was right near the finale. As he tried to calm down the room before the huge finale, he asked the house to turn down the lights. When they all didn’t go out at once, he started singing “And this one too, how about we turn this one off as well.” It was pretty funny and we all calmed down for the Bandits to blow us away with their closing number, “Only For The Night”, my favorite Bandits song. I can’t forget to mention how fantastic Joe Troy was on bass. He was seriously rocking out during the set.

No surprises here, the Bandits rocked my socks and went off the stage leaving me stunned at how good their set was. I tried to listen to Dredg a little, but they took so long getting out that my patience had worn thin (it was a Tuesday), so I went home during their first song.

Great night, great show, see Rx Bandits if they’re ever in a town near you.

Streetlight Manifesto Concert [Feedback]
Apr 28th, 2009 by Dan

Last Friday I went out to Towson to see one of my favorite bands, Streetlight Manifesto. The last (and only) ska show I’d ever been to was back in 2003 for Five Iron Frenzy’s farewell tour, which primarily means that I didn’t really go to a ska show. You see, FIF skewed mostly to a Christian audience and so at their shows they mostly discouraged the shoving and pushing endemic of most ska concerts. Naturally, SLM had no such qualms about the shoving, so I got firsthand knowledge of just how hard it is to jump/dance, sing, try and stay on two feet in all the shoving, and, most importantly, breathe. Other than all the unnecessary shoving (I get why, it’s all the energy, but it just seems kind of pointless…maybe I’m just old?), the venue was my kind of place. The last show I went to was at the DAR Constitution Hall (that’s Daughters of the American Revolution for the uninformed), which was a huge venue that meant that we had assigned seats that we were mostly confined to. Now, I was mostly turned off by Ben Folds’ all-new stuff set that night, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t want to be out in a crowd for it too. The Recher Theatre, on the other hand, was a tiny venue, with capacity for maybe 1000 people, if you stretched the limits of the place and maybe ignored a fire code or two. Perfect for a rock show, although I do also like the setup they had at school for Slope Day for the same kind of show.

The openers that night were the Skakabobs, an old ska group on a reunion tour. They must be really small time, cause Wikipedia doesn’t even know who they are, which would almost lead me to believe they didn’t exist if I hadn’t seen them with my own two eyes and heard fans of theirs singing their songs last night. Most of the band showed up for the reunion, but either the trombonist or the lead singer didn’t show up, because the lead singer that night also doubled as the trombonist when he was free of the mic. Their set was typical of ska bands and ska music, high energy, irrelevant, and catchy. Of note were two songs, one about Chinese food and the other about Emilio Estevez and how he was the band leader’s girlfriend (I believe this one was called “Emilio”). The latter featured chants of “Estevez!” after “Emilio!”s rang out, followed by awesome “Charlie!” “Sheen!”s. A good show and I was impressed…until I heard SLM come onto the stage.

It’s not the Skakabobs’ fault that they just can’t match up to Streetlight Manifesto, they just have a much richer sound that has yet to be upstaged by any ska performer I’ve heard since. The main strength, in my humble opinion, of SLM has to do with the composition of their horn section. Not content with just one saxophonist, Streetlight features both an alto (Jim Conti) and a baritone (Mike Brown) sax along with the usual trombone (Mike Soprano), trumpet (Matt Stewart), guitar (Tomas Kalnoky), bass (Peter McCullough), and drums. Each member of the band is a fully capable performer in his own right, which is frequently highlighted in their music with horn duets and solos, providing kind of a jazzy feel to their performance to break up all the ska punk flying around. They opened strong, they closed strong, and they had excellent pacing with a nice, slower section in the middle to ease us in to the raucous finale. I’ve yet to go to a better show.

On an interesting side note, lead singer Tomas Kalnoky mentioned that there would be a new SLM album of covers released on the net this summer and that, following Warped Tour, they would be working on their final album for Victory Records, creatively freeing them up to do whatever they wanted. I can’t wait.

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