Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gig: Rival Boys

Rival Boys (The Guest Bedroom / Wax Mannequin)

The Garrison. Friday, June 3, 2011.

Heading up from an early show, I was sad to have missed an opening set by Planet Creature, but I've had my chances otherwise.1 As it was, I arrived with Chris Adeney, who operates under the bandonym Wax Mannequin, just finishing his setup.

I didn't really get it the first time I saw him play, but given the technical troubles he was fighting through then, I figured it'd be sporting to see him again. Just like that last time, Adeney presented himself musically with a stripped-down, vaguely old-timey presentation — though technologically, he'd mix old with new: dressed like a Depression-era troubadour, but with a laptop concealed in a beat up old suitcase, which'd add basic rhythm tracks under his songs. And his giant cocoon.

"I've got a very large crystal," he said, referring to the chrysalis-like thing on stage to his right. "Would you like some crystals?" With that, he tossed what turned out to be, on closer inspection, decorative glass beads into the crowd.

There's an entirely subjective line between "entertainer" and "guy with gimmicks", and in the early going, I was admittedly assigning Adeney to the latter camp. Especially when some of his songs also seemed a bit gimmicky as well. That said, the songcraft of "Volcano God" and "Everything and Everyone" did reach me somewhat. And it's hard not to be at least somewhat entertained by a guy who is maniacally working himself up to some sort of weird ceremony.

"Once things get really randy, I'm going to invite the most excellent person in the room — I don't know who it is yet, but I'm gonna figure it out — the most excellent person in the room is going to come up and open the chrysalis. They're gonna extract the contents and get it all over everybody in here. So I hope you're ready for that — we're really gonna get this party started." He tried to start a dance competition during "Tell the Doctor" to find that most excellent person, and once she was selected, during "The Log Driver's Waltz" (which turned into a spontaneous singalong), she tore open the chrysalis — which was, in fact, a repurposed blanket filled of balloons — and unleashed them upon the crowd.

So, there was definitely a bit of a spectacle afoot. Which was a welcome diversion, as the set, running past forty-five minutes, was a bit on the long side. Still, I did like some of the songs — like closer "Thing Game", filled with absurd bee/bird imagery. I guess the persona is just part of the package, but there is some element in Adeney's presentation that rubs me the wrong way a bit. It doesn't put me off so much that I think I would become counted among the "enemies" that he sings several songs about, but I wouldn't consider myself a fellow-traveller.

Listen to a track from this set here.

I was more eager to get another chance to hear The Guest Bedroom, who led off with "Magical Thinking"2, one of the new songs the band had played the last time I'd seen 'em. That the next song was "Curses" might imply something supernatural in vocalist/guitarist Sandi Falconer's worldview but on the whole, her concerns seem more grounded. Or at least the music is, the steady pulsations of the rhythm section providing a framework for snaky guitar work and Rob Castle's keybs. The playing is taut and well-paced, and the quartet play with telepathic, no-look pass certainty.

Even at this point, the band was certainly stocked with new songs on a par with the tasty Year's Supply Of Rabbit's Feet, including "Fine Lines"3 So hopefully we will be hearing more soon about getting a chance to engage with the new material.

Listen to a track from this set here.

Bringing a cake and everything, Rival Boys were celebrating the release of their debut full-length Mutual Feelings of Love. Leading with "Recovery" (with its "we're calling out" refrain), they managed to elicit some call-and-response action from the crowd — an early sign that this was a fully-engaged audience. And a good-sized one, to boot, very enthusiastic for the material, clapping along and, um, reacting to "React To It". Over the course of the set, the band would play the whole of their new album, moving quickly and efficiently from song to song. (They did shuffle up the order, though, for better stage dynamics.)

The trio is led by siblings Lee and Graeme Rose (bass and guit respectively), backed by Sam Sholdice on drums. Lee handles the lead vocals, showing quite a range from the yearning "Bow and Arrow" (showing off an affecting pop sensibility) to a bit more of a yalp as required. Graeme, meanwhile, acted as the rougher contrasting sandpaper with his backing vox. The trio format gives them a stripped-down lean edge, but the music often leans to "pop" more than "power". It also makes for an engaging tension between a scrappy tendency and the more restrained dynamics they seem to be growing into. One upshot of that is that while they do a good job at the slower stuff like "Dream of Stones", it's harder to hold a crowd who are going ape for the upbeat stuff.

That was especially evident as they closed things out with "Construction Work", a song from their earlier EP. With Graeme leading the crowd in a raggedy singalong, at first I thought it was a cover, the band playing a song that everyone on hand except me seemed to know. And while that went over very well with their friends up front, it didn't have anywhere the impact on me of the newer, more sophisticated stuff. It will be interesting to see how the band navigates this as they go on. But even at this point, there was no doubt they could put a charge into a room — as they wound up, they left the crowd chanting for more.4

Listen to a track from this set here.

1 The connections between Planet Creature and the headliners would subsequently get even closer with Rival Boys' Lee Rose becoming Planet Creature's bass player.

2 Their mix of groundedness and, um, magical thinking and is evident in the song's rather nifty video (directed by Ryan Mounsey), which contains both mythical wizards and all-too-real transit woes. This song is due for inclusion on a forthcoming EP now due "sometime in 2012".

3 This one also has a video, and, in fact, there has been talk about all the songs on the new EP getting clips, so stay tuned for more.

4 Rival Boys are playing Hillside at the end of this month, and they'll be getting ready for that with a warmup gig at Clinton's on Thursday, July 26, 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment