Friday, March 04, 2005

Smash and I went to see Black Rice at Mesa Luna last night. These all-ages gigs crack me up; they’re like being on the set of a Larry Clark film. Once again I’m the old guy at the rock show.

There were five bands on the bill. We arrived just in time to catch Calgary’s The Cape May, who were second up. They reminded me a bit of Red House Painters—very heartfelt and fearlessly sedate. Their songs demanded a confident voice to pull them off, and their singer, who looked a little young to have entered the beard-rock phase of his career, was definitely up to it. Aside from Black Rice, they were the best band I saw all night.

It’s weird when you see a band rocking but you don’t hear a band rocking. That’s what I experienced with The Approach, the next band up. Although they had interesting material that made up for lack of hooks with lots of twists and turns, they seemed reined in somehow. I think the guitar needed to be louder. I’m not sure how long these guys have been going, but they might become really good if they build upon their existing tightness and deliver it with more force.

The next band had no such problem. In Media Res are a four piece who deliver their Dinosaur Jr.-ish songs with a little too much enthusiasm. You’d think they were headlining Lollapalooza ’92 the way they carried on. Fair play to them, but this was the weird thing—the crowd responded in kind. Not only do In Media Res have fans, they have fans that clapped along and sang the words and tolerated the banter between songs and knew what was going on when some guy joined the band onstage and started lobbing cans of pop into the crowd (I saw later they were empty cans turned into makeshift shakers). Smash and I felt like we’d crashed the wrong party.

Black Rice got us centered again. It’s so nice to see a band where every member has a presence and a personality and contributes equally. They’re like The Minutemen or Fugazi; an onslaught of sincerity wrapped up in serious fun. Look at Juli drumming herself into exhaustion, smiling all the time. Maybe I should smile more when I play. I’m usually too busy cringing. Check out the guitarists and their matching Telecasters and moustaches. Whatta team. Look at the bass player—that kid has indomitable spirit. I’ve seen them play tighter, but they challenged themselves with few new numbers, perhaps looking forward to their recording break after another show this weekend. Still, a rough-and-ready Black Rice is better than none.

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