Live Review: TSITR, others…

Category: Blog — @ 4:19 pm March 20, 2005

Some thoughts on last night’s The Show is the Rainbow CD release party at Sokol Underground, where around 110 showed up:

I missed Shineyville and Milk, thanks to Wake Forest. I caught Caught in the Fall. The guy running the show said they were a hardcore band. I wouldn’t call what they do “hardcore,” but what do I know? I’m not exactly an expert on the genre. The people who were surrounding them on the floor seemed into it, and that’s all that really matters. Jabid was a guy who performed over recorded synth/videogame music/noise paced at about 300 bpm while gameshow footage and “shock” video (operating procedures, disease images, conjoined twins) was shown on a screen behind him. He also performed on the floor.

The Show is the Rainbow a.k.a. Darren Keen, used the screen to show a video during his performance, which took place both on and off the floor. The proceedings began with Darren lambasting the soundguy about the house music — Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Said Darren, “I hate The Cure. Turn that shit off!” I still don’t know if he knew… well, whatever.

Mr. Keen performed his entire CD, Radboyz Only!!!, in sequence, Cursive-style. If you haven’t seen TSITR before, it’s Darren singing/rapping over a CDR of his music interspersed with yelling at the crowd and assorted wicked dance moves. He’s an entertainer. In the past, Darren did his shtick from the floor with the lights on, running around the crowd, yelling in their faces — a true entertainment outreach program. And the crowd got into it. Unfortunately, most of that interaction was lost with his new video — a homemade i-movie affair that mixed footage of Darren and his friends with mod graphics, text, etc., all sequenced to the music. Sort of like The Faint’s deal, but on a smaller scale. And just like with The Faint, the crowd tended to keep its eyes on the video and not Darren, resulting in a rather dead audience.

Here’s one example where the video was a deficit instead of an enhancement: In the past, one of Darren’s funnier bits was his intro, where he lip-synched a prerecorded bit and filled-in the blanks, depending on where he was and who he was performing with. “It’s great to be here at (fill in venue name).” It was a hoot. Now he uses a video that shows him in a shower reciting the intro (he still fills in the blanks live). Interesting, but not as funny. On the other hand, some of the video footage was hysterical and effective, such as the shot of a young GW flipping off a television camera before an interview, repeated over and over, and the footage of Keen’s mouth videotaped sideways. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good little film, but it took away from a live performance that’s already dependent on prerecorded audio and sucked the life right out of the audience.

The nine songs from the new CD are pure TSITR — fun homemade beats, electric guitar touches, sound effects, and Darren’s sissy rap mixed with falsetto crooning. Crowd pleaser “Up a Creek without a Saddle” was introduced as a song about how much he hates Bright Eyes. I couldn’t make out the words because of the sound quality of the vocals (and I don’t have a copy of the CD). A lot of it sounded more like a dig at scenesters who frequent indie rock shows. Ironically, one of the best songs off his new album, “Babe Born with Blue Eyes,” is a ballad that sounds like a Bright Eyes song a la Digital Ash. I wasn’t the only one who noticed this. Other highwater marks were “Jailbait Babycake,” a catchy number about pop punk frontmen chasing after 14-year-old girls, and another slower number performed about halfway through the set.

All in all, TSITR’s music can be fun and compelling, but it’s the live show that makes TSITR TSITR. With the video, the lights out and Darren relegated to the front of the room, a lot of that live exuberance was lost. Plus there was no fake blood. When the set ended, Joy Division came back on and Darren again yelled for the sound guy to turn it off. Instead, he turned it up.

We all get a night off to prepare for Men of Porn and Bloodcow at The Brother’s. Oh boy…

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