Live Review: The Stay Awake, Thunderbirds Are Now!

Category: Blog — @ 5:54 pm June 28, 2005

Sorry for the delay in today’s entry. I was up early this morning writing a comprehensive story on Slowdown — the Saddle Creek Records bar/music hall/office complex — which will go online at Lazy-i tomorrow morning along with the drawings/plans of the new facility. Don’t miss it.

It was because of that odd deadline (the story was a last-minute assignment for this week’s issue of The Reader) I was forced to leave the show early last night before Enon came on. This makes twice that I missed them when they came through town. I was there, however, for the two opening bands, not the least of which was The Stay Awake, a hot new trio featuring frontman/guitarist Steve Micek, bassist Robert Little and some guy from Bleeders for Treats whose name I don’t know that absolutely scorched on the drums. Someone at the show described their sound as “mathy.” I’m not sure I agree. Micek and crew play intricate syncopated almost-stuttering movements in odd meters (5/8? 7/8?) braced upon a foundation of hard-angled chords and spare (if nonexistent) melodies. It sounds almost like free-form avant jazz with a distinct element of improvisation (by all three) within the songs’ rigid structures. Micek’s vocals, delivered with his back to the audience, are mostly incoherent barks used more for rhythm than anything. This reminds me of punk from five or six years ago, back when bands didn’t care if you understood what was going on because they were too busy trying to get this stuff off their backs like some sort of personal exorcism. It sure isn’t gonna please everyone, and it isn’t intended to. Regardless of the improvised feel, there were a couple times when you didn’t know if the songs were ending on purpose or if the band was simply getting tired of playing them.

Next up was Detroit’s Thunderbirds Are Now!, a band that seemed almost designed to be on Frenchkiss Records. A jittery four-piece of whirling dervishes, their songs sported a distinct dance vibe while breaking down into odd-prog territory (sort of like your typical Frenchkiss band). Guitars, bleep-bleep synth keyboards, vocals, bass and at the end of their set, two drummers (one guy alternated between multiple instruments and the occasional freak-out). Thunderbirds are as much a performance art piece as a rock band (in a Les Savy Fav sort of way). If they pulled back a little more, they’d get mistaken for a Rock 4/Rapture type band, which they distinctly are not.

Attendance when I left was around 200, not bad for a Monday night.

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