TV Buddhas, The National Rifle, Thin Sketch, Fillmore Jive
Friday September 3, 2010 at 31st Street Pub
with Leigh, Paul
I had never been to the 31st Street Pub, and I would like to return. I don't think the TV Buddhas would agree with me. Well, I suppose they'd agree I was there, but I can't say for sure whether they'll go back there. The bar was mostly empty and, among the small crowd, nobody was all that enthusiastic. The band members themselves seemed rather apathetic and played a pretty short set, unfortunately. From the videos of them I watched on YouTube in the days leading up to the show, I was expecting a raucous romp; what I did see was some noisy garage rock music, but it was missing that extra pizzazz that characterizes a really good show. Maybe it was the beginning of their tour, maybe it was the lackluster crowd, maybe they had shitty pizza for dinner . . . who knows. Ultimately, I liked their sound but was not blown away. Ultimately, though, I believe the 31st Street Pub can be a great place for a show and I think the TV Buddhas can put on a great show and, in my eyes, they both deserve another chance.
I had been out for dinner & drinks with some friends at Hemingway's in Oakland, and we caught the 54C towards the Strip on the late side, just arriving in time to see the last song by Fillmore Jive, the first local opener. I've seen them before and liked their live sound: super noisy guitar and drum duo with lots of effects-laden riffs and pounding drums. It's a real wall of sound for just two people and they can turn any of their songs into an extended jam session. It's a shame we only caught the end of their last jam, but it was quite a marvel to witness. They kicked on a strobe light while the guitarist was alternately wailing on the strings and then heaving his guitar at the amp to feed the reverb, but then the drummer took control and brought the rhythm down to a crawl, and then they started up again! Fillmore Jive went out with a veritable bang, that's for sure. I look forward to catching them again this Friday.
Next up was Thin Sketch, a local trio with a bassist and drummer that looked like they could seamlessly fit in with The Silver Bullet Band or BTO and a singer that would more likely belong with . . . well, not with them. He was a tall, skinny black guy jumping around stage "singing" (read: yelping and/or talking) about leaving the party because the keg is kicked or how the Burger King on the South Side is closed or talking between songs about how he's gonna "hate fuck" those girls in the taxi that told them they would come to the show but never followed through. Frankly, it was all rather weird and I was glad when it was over. The only funny moment came when the singer found a pick on stage that nobody laid claim to, allowing him to declare it "the pick of destiny".
The National Rifle had walked around the bar during the previous set, handing out stickers, pins and keychain bottle openers bearing their band logo to the dozen or so patrons. It was a nice gesture, at least. They took the stage and announced they were from Philly (which elicited boos and then clarifications that "we like you, just not Philly") and that this was the first day of their tour, so enthusiasm abounded. The lead guitar/singer walked off the stage and towards the front of the crowd a couple times, the bassist took off his shirt after the first song due to sweating so much from bouncing his head up and down and jumping around, and it seemed like the drummer was able to hit every single drum and cymbal on his massive kit in one nanosecond. Meanwhile, the female keyboardist hopped back and forth between vocals and double percussion duties. They clearly enjoyed playing their music, but that didn't really make it any more enjoyable for me. I was generally digging the double-drums and some of the reggae-influenced percussive rhythms and fast-paced bass lines, and the harmonica solo in the last song was pretty neat, but other than that I wasn't too impressed. It was generally lots of bass with little emphasis on the keyboard/guitar melodies, and the vocals were really low in the mix and hard to make out. Maybe that was the sound guy's fault, who knows. They could also do without the fist-pumping, sweaty, shirtless bassist; he just seemed out of place. Overall, I say "meh", but I think it was just the wrong crowd for them: a crowded frat party would have been way better.
The TV Buddhas played last, after The National Rifle had been introducing them during their set as "TV Buddha!" I had been watching some YouTube videos of them playing live, and it looked like a lot of fun: frantic drumming and long, meandering guitar solos, jumping around onstage or, in one, wandering around the sidewalk. In my head, I likened them to Israel's version of The White Stripes, but that seems superficial now: the "male guitar/female drummer duo playing noisy garage rock" comparison only goes so far. The Buddhas' guitar lines tend to be fuzzier, in general, and the drumming a little more restrained (the onstage kit was quite basic, just a tom and snare and two small cymbals) but still the essential, driving component of their songs. I also noticed the drummer choking up a bit on her drumsticks, holding them about 1/3 of the way up, perhaps to play a little faster? They also had a third member onstage, which may be a new aspect for them. He also played guitar and seemed to take many of the solos during their songs, but he really tightened them up and condensed their jams into quick songs. Some of the videos I'd seen showed them playing for around 5 minutes, but none of the songs in this set seemed to be longer than 3 or 4. Their lead guy took all the vocals and mostly the rhythm guitar lines, and they didn't prolong any of their songs into extended jam sessions. This was my only complaint really, but it seemed like such a big aspect of their live show; it was really what I was expecting. Instead, they blazed through a 30 minute set with little more than a super-quick "Thanks. This next song is called ..." between songs. I liked their songs, and I would have loved to see more of them, but that was all we got. Good set overall, just not enough for me. I'd like to see them again, but I don't know if I'll ever get that chance!
Here's a video of their last two songs that I recorded on my Droid phone. As usual, audio & video aren't as good as they could be, but take it for what it is, you know? Maybe chuckle at the fact that you can tell when I walk from my seat at the bar to the front of the stage, at least.
Random observations: There was some dude walking around the room holding a Game Boy apparatus and somehow recording video and audio on it!?!? One of the guys in Thin Sketch said something about it but I couldn't quite hear him, so I still have no idea what that was all about. Also, it's strange to see people I "know" from other contexts out of their element; e.g. at this show I spotted both Manny Theiner and that guy who runs the pub quiz I go to every Wednesday @ the Brillobox. Finally, I "spotted" the drummer and singer from TV Buddhas kinda hugging/canoodling before their set. Whatupwiththat?
The National Rifle
MySpace, website, Twitter, Facebook
Live song in Allentown
"Baby Stole My Gun" live
Fan video for "It's Just Whiskey Mama
MySpace, blog, Twitter, Facebook
Official video for "Fun Girls"
Live song in Tel Aviv
Live song in Torino, Italy
Live song in a record store in Vienna, Austria
Acoustic song live on the street in Vienna