The hand-scribbled message on the paper lying next to the cash register said it all: SOLD OUT. As in the room was at capacity. As in as soon as I said my hellos and turned the counter I was met with a wall of humanity. I didn’t realize how popular these bands were. I guess a lot of people watch The O.C. Let me start by throwing some roses before I pick up a turd. Rogue Wave was impressive, much better than when I saw them back in January of ’05, back when they were just another one of those bands riding the retro tip along with The Shins and New Pornographers and the various Elephant Six projects. They don’t sound anything like that anymore (I confess to not having heard their most recent album). They seemed to have evolved into Death Cab for Cutie, but with denser, more haunting (and more interesting) arrangements, not at all what I was expecting.
And maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t been down to Sokol in a long time — my ears seemingly having adjusted to the meager PA at O’Leaver’s — but the sound last night was just plain terrific, as good as I’ve ever heard in that smokey basement. Give credit to the sound guy, but give credit to the bands whose performances were clearly were honed and ready to make the most out of what they had (Christ, the drums from both bands were thunderous). Between sets the roadies set up large parabolic mirrors on stage — five of them — just like the ones used in grocery stores and convenient marts to keep an eye on shoplifters. The huge round mirrors mounted on stands were pointed at the crowd and made for an interesting visual (What is it about mirrors that make a room look bigger?). And so, with the stage set and after a prolonged (20 minutes?) break between bands, on came Nada Surf, and what can I say? They sounded good, I guess, but ultimately, well, kind of boring. I like The Weight Is a Gift, their new album, but live, for whatever reason (maybe I just wasn’t in the mood; maybe it lacked the record’s earnest dynamics), it felt flat. All’s I could think of was how much they reminded me of those bands I remembered from the ’90s — bands like Goo Goo Dolls and Soul Asylum and Trip Shakespeare and Matchbox Twenty and maybe, most of all, Gin Blossoms. Don’t get me wrong, they were doing what they do as well as they could (though the guitar parts seemed empty, evidence of the overdubs they must have used on their albums to compensate), I just got the feeling I’d heard it before, probably on the radio circa 1995, or on a television commercial circa now.
The weekend’s looking a might-bit thin. Tonight, O’Leaver’s has folk-rock outfit Goodbye Sunday and The Pendrakes. $5, 9:30 p.m. (Why not?). And that’s…it. Nothing stands out for Saturday or Sunday. And maybe that’s okay, because next week there are multiple worthy shows every night. Get some sleep, save your money. You’ll need it.
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