I Went down to Call The Office this Thursday past for one of the better potential shows in recent memory. By that I mean the bill included some bands catching their fair share of buzz around the music universe, although I wasn't intimately familiar with most of their material. Thus, the show had the potential to be quite excellent, at least based on other people's endorsements.
With the late addition of Rock Plaza Central to the show, tipping the bill to four bands, made for a long night of rocking and rolling. I got there early to catch Oh! The Pretty Things to see if the tail end of the set I caught last time they were in town was a fluke or a snapshot of the band. O!TPT lived up to my own expectations and rocked a surprisingly energized crowd, despite several technical difficulties. The band seemed to enjoy their time on stage as much as myself and promised to return promptly. More about them in the coming days.
Quick sidenote: Say what you will about all ages shows and audiences but for the past several shows down at CTO there has been a group of barely legal types who get right up their at the front and dance their little asses off. At first is was almost irritating as they seemed to be more concerned with their quirky moves and one-upping each other than the bands. After coming across them multiple times now, I have grown appreciative to their complete enthusiasm. They rock the front lines the way those front lines should be rocked. I enjoy their joy.
Next up was Rock Plaza Central. Since the release of last year's Are We Not Horses, the band have been steadily gaining momentum. Chalk it up to a few things: Lyricist and frontman Chris Eaton's caterwaul garners comparisons to Jeff Mangum and Will Oldham. In a world starved for new Neutral Milk Hotel don't underestimate the power of siding with the next best thing. Pitchfork's 8.4 scoring for the album certainly opened a few eyes, as does the album's incredibly unique concept.
Rock Plaza's set was intense and grandeur. They have the same slightly weird and out of place look as Arcade Fire, although if Arcade looks like your high school music geeks, Rock Plaza looks like the ones who volunteered their lunch hours at the library. Just goes to show that you don't have to spend any time on image if your music is beyond cool anyways. The band played a loose set that grew more and more intense as they progressed. Aided by mandolin, violin, and the accordion among others (Eaton: "I want to thank you guys. That is probably the first time in rock and roll history that a crowd has asked for more accordion"), the band brought to life a variety of tracks from their latest, with a track or two from their previous records adding posterity. Their performance had a Broken Social Scene quality to it. Huge sounds and songs that seem destined to implode at points but never quite did. The best set of the night.
Update: Pitchfork added some photos and words from Rock Plaza Central's gig a few nights later in Chicago. Check them out here.
Next up was We're Marching On. Unfortunately for the band their sound is a slice of that NME approved, Arctic Monkeys type, spastic ADD rock. I say unfortunately because I talked to the guys for the latter half of the Born Ruffians set and they are incredibly sweet . There was nothing breathtaking (or redeeming) about their music. But the world can always use nice people, so that's something positive.
Last up on this long night were the Born Ruffians. With opening slots for Hot Chip, Peter, Bjorn and John, as well as a gig at last year's Toronto leg of the V Festival, the Ruffians should have been the big draw. And while there was still a sizable crowd, their 1AM start time on a Thursday wasn't exactly helping the cause. The Ruffians share elements with We're Marching On (management too). Off kilter vocals, too many yelps crossed with pogo pop for those no longer taking their Ritalin. Considering I went in with almost no expectations I was surprised at how underwhelmed I was. You can't be a fan of everything I realize, but as The Dandy Warhols once said "It doesn't take a genius to figure out/ I'm not as bright as I think I am"
Rock Plaza central and Oh! The Pretty Things mp3's below. Rock Plaza's music can be purchased here. O!TPT just put out their first EP. Get in contact with the band to get yourself a copy.
Oh! The Pretty Things - Seventeen mp3
Oh! The Pretty Things - Jet Plane mp3
Rock Plaza Central - I am an Excellent Steel Horse mp3
Rock Plaza Central - 8/14/03 mp3