“Rogue Wave” – 7/17/13 @ Neumos & “Band of Horses” 8/5/13 @ Showbox Market – both Seattle – The kids these days have a lot of categories and sub-categories to tuck music into that we didn’t have back in my day. Ultimately, I think that’s a good thing. The more ways we have to understand each other, the better. However, we can never get to true understanding through a name, a category is just a category. It’s a good thing when bands challenge their filing status.
One term that seems to easily stir people’s emotions is “Emo” and it’s used a lot. All we had back in the day was “alternative” and a lot of things fit under it that would get broken out today. Some, perish the thought, might have been considered Emo. It even gets mentioned in commercials for major music festivals such as Bumbershoot here in Seattle. Usually somewhat tongue in cheek and somewhat despairingly. “Oh, if you’re an over-emotional and loathsome hipster emo-lover, don’t worry, your delicate ego will be appeased with bands that we will judge you for liking.” Notice how close “emo” and “ego” are. Hmmm, beyond my intellect to analyze…
All of this is a lead up to my reviews of two recent shows for bands that likely would fit into someone’s idea of Emo music – Rogue Wave and Band of Horses. Both are bands I’ve liked for a few years now, but at the first show, the Rogue Wave show, going into it, I started to wonder if I don’t challenge myself enough in my musical tastes. I embrace this whole Emo thing, I’m fine with it, rarely care what people think about me, especially when it comes to music.
But, should I be weary of bands associated w/ the category? Are my tastes changing?There are so many other bands out there to like, do I take the easy route? Am I addicted to a sugary-sweet mix that is manipulating my delicate ego? Ultimately I know these are frivolous questions, they don’t really matter. To me, these are questions that basically guide me towards the best of the best. Which gourmet food is the best? I like to think that with years as music director for my college radio station and many, many shows under my belt, I have a discerning taste in music. It’s the one and only thing I think I’m justified in being snobby about. This is clearly a 1st world problem, which indie/alt/emo music is best suited for me? Is that a question that can even be answered?
Anyhoo…I started to wonder if my tastes were getting too broad. Was I going for the easy fix? Were my emotions and penchant for simple hooks being toyed with to sell records and/or t-shirts? I came to realize that I didn’t care. So f’n what that most of Rogue Wave’s songs seem to be about relationships or that their lead singer handed out flowers at the end of their show. They still rocked Neumos quite well that night and had one of my friends who attended be surprised by how “heavy” they were. Even if they are pulling heart-strings through sleeves, they do so in an interesting way that gets satisfyingly psychedelic and crunching at times.
Rogue Wave’s latest album – Nightingale Floors – is a confident offering from a band that was starting to sound a bit too much like Death Cab for Cutie. Don’t get me started on them and their place in the emo pantheon. Their latest album features some great psychedelic and poppy explorations from a band that are accessible but also have enough options to explore some appealing sonic landscapes. One track that I wished they’d played live that I love is “Everyone Wants to Be You”, there is plenty stuffed into its wall of sound to find appealing. That track is followed up by one they did play live, one of the more respectful and resonant covers in recent memory – Screaming Trees “Nearly Lost You”. The kind of cover that sends you promptly to the original at high volumes but also has you respecting what the band has done with it.
The Rogue Wave show was great. I definitely recommend checking them out, they have a varied catalogue to choose from and can put together a set featuring all kinds of goodies. They will bang on their instruments satisfyingly, if maybe leave some of the more psychedelic explorations disappointingly off the set list. They might be appealing to some more base emotions and lyrically not pushing the envelope much, but they wrap it all up in oh such a cool way.
That leads me to the other show I’m folding in here, the Band of Horses show at the Showbox Market. THIS show I was very excited for. Just based on logic alone, you have a band that has achieved a healthy portion of “indie” rock success with tunes featured in a variety of TV shows and movies, successful albums and a strong following. That band is playing at a medium-sized club venue that they easily sell out and I’m left holding a ticket. Do the math. As I told a few people leading up to the show, my expectations were high.
I’m glad to say that my expectations were largely met. I guess I expected more fervor from the crowd but the band did put on a great set. I’ve seen the band be a bit more wacky on stage, breaking fake glass bottled on each others heads for example, maybe the move back to South Carolina has mellowed them out slightly? This time things were pretty straightforward, they just put on a great set.
I’ve noticed that some bands – like My Morning Jacket – have structured their sets chronologically along with their discography. That works out really well if you like a bands latest stuff better, but it can make you a bit nervous in the beginning of the show. That was more noticeable for My Morning Jacket, their music has changed quite a bit from album to album and their older stuff is a lot more rootsy. I enjoyed the late, psychedelic part of their set more than the beginning.
Same could be said for me about the Band of Horses set, but their catalog isn’t quite as varied from one album to the next. Still, for me, the energy level definitely picked up near the end of the show and became much more fun. Nothing much to report as far as antics or crazy light show or anything very surprising about the Band of Horses set, just a solid rock show. I was glad to get to see them in such a small venue. They aren’t necessarily an arena act, but it’s rare to be able to see them at a club show and I was glad I got to.
Again, maybe not anything that pushes the edges of my musical tastes, BOH is a very accessible band, and even more accessible in such a small club. At times their lead singer and founder Bed Bridwell sounds like Perry Ferrell, combined with that alt rock country pop thing they have going on, and there’s the potential for a lot of singing along and good times.
Sometimes you like to listen to music that makes you feel good. I feel justified in enjoying the occasional sugary band, even if they are designed to pull the heart-strings of people 20 years my junior. Call me Emo, call me indie, call me a sellout hipster, fine by me, but I like what I like.
Rogue Wave set list (from San Fran a few nights prior, can’t find the Seattle setlist) http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/rogue-wave/2013/the-independent-san-francisco-ca-7bd946a0.html
Band of Horses set list – http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/band-of-horses/2013/showbox-at-the-market-seattle-wa-1bc6d920.html