8.28.2007

Delayed Gratification: The Format & 1001 Openers, Part I

(This is the first part of a two-part concert review. To see Part II, please click here.)

by Caitlin Servilio


The Format took the 9:30 Club in D.C. by storm last weekend — but only after the audience had to endure some fairly unpleasant drizzle beforehand.

The Format, the stubbornly independent band from Phoenix, AZ was touring with four (four!) openers: Reubens Accomplice, a pop band also from Phoenix; Limbeck, an alternative country outfit from Southern California; Steel Train, a New Jersey emo band; and Piebald, an indie rock band from Andover, Massachusetts. And though I’ve been to some shows where the openers stole the spotlight from the headliner (for instance, last spring’s Of Montreal show), that didn’t happen this time.

Reubens Accomplice started off the night with nothing remotely approaching a big bang. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with them, but there was nothing particularly right either. Their sound was generic and seemed overly trendy. A long whistling segment brought to mind the songwriter of the band thinking, “Hey, Peter Bjorn and John do it, so why not us?”

A sad moment occurred when they asked the crowd, “Did any of you guys see us when we played here five years ago?” Crickets could be heard chirping in the silence that followed, as Reubens Accomplice digested the fact that after five years they were still the first opener for a five-band show, and had no recognizable D.C. fanbase.

Limbeck, which came on directly afterward, was a welcome change. The fresh energy they brought to the set reinvigorated the still-thin crowd, along with their good-natured banter and country-tinged rock. Songs like “Big Drag” connected with the audience and entertained with tongue-in cheek humor and catchy hooks. Everyone in the band actually looked healthy and well fed, which is certainly nice to see in an age when starveling hipsters dominate the music scene in their size 00 jeans. Perhaps it was the three square meals a day that gave Limbeck the strength to write and perform decent songs.

Steel Train, by far the worst act of the night, could have learned some valuable lessons from Limbeck. Instead, Steel Train's brand of emo pop rock went beyond the generic sound of Reubens Accomplice to attain the rank of stereotypical and dumb. Every song was an uninterrupted stream of clichés with barely a transition to render the lyrics any actual meaning. “Kill Monsters in the Rain,” the band’s new single, included winners like “Let’s kill monsters in the rain/ because we are the same/ but you are to blame.” At one point the lead singer Jack Antonoff (Internet research turned up the fact that he used to date Scarlett Johansson, an experience which has apparently been incorporated into at least three Steel Train songs) explained emotionally “This song is about coming to DC from NJ.” And then members of the band actually got up, put their arms around each other, and sang the acoustic “Road Song,” which by the way referenced neither DC nor NJ. It was one of, if not the most, cringe-worthy concert experience I have ever had.

(To see the second part of this concert review, please scroll down or click here.)

(Promotional photo of Limbeck from Doghouse Records. To see the video for Limbeck's "Big Drag," please check below.)












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1 comments:

Anonymous said...

im great friends with limbeck and the format who seem to be your favorite bands on this bill, and i must respectfully say (and both bands agree) that you have the worst taste in music ive ever come across.... both reubens accomplice and steel train are anything but generic.... reubens songwriting is impeccable and they are an incredibly underrated band, and as far as steel trains lyrics, sorry they couldnt be cut and dry for you.....maybe u can read into them a little bit to get something out of it...

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