The Faint are a phenomenon. I mean that with all sincerity, and without even seeing them perform last night. I got to Sokol just after 8 to catch The Berg Sans Nipple. I guess you’d call them a percussion duo — both guys played drums and other percussion instruments while also playing a variety of noise makers, synths, loops, a melodica. Each song (if you can call them that) is built upon a repeated rhythm, usually something throaty and tribal, dense and meaty. I only noticed one of the guys actually singing once during the set – the rest of the time the vocals were sampled or prerecorded, allowing them to concentrate on whatever they were pounding on at the moment. At times, there was a sort of Blue Man Group vibe going on, other times, Eno. I’ve heard them compared to Air, probably because one of the guys is French, but I didn’t notice a resemblance. By the time their set ended, the floor already was 3/4 filled and the heat was just beginning to rise.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a show upstairs at Sokol. After going to The Waiting Room and Slowdown the last few weeks, Sokol seems a bit war-torn, but it’s still one of the biggest rooms in town and a perfect setting for shows like this, with its huge sound system made even huger last night thanks to the enormous wall of subwoofers stuffed under the stage. For the first time in memory, a large steel barrier was set up in front of the stage, with a small army of blue t-shirt-clad security guys patrolling the alley like pitbulls (standard issue at sold-out Sokol shows, I’m told). In fact, I’ve never seen that many security guys at a Sokol show before (or maybe I never noticed them). The usual security precautions were in effect outside the venue, with more blue shirts frisking people on the way in — this time confiscating cigarette lighters, it was kind of like going through security at the airport. And with the recent advent of bottle-throwing incidents, every beer was poured into a plastic cup, taking away opportunities for rowdies to wing empties at the band. Who needs chickenwire fencing?
After BSN finished I decided to take off, and was told twice – once by a security guy, once by a cop – that if I stepped through that turnstile I wasn’t coming back “DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” Yeah, yeah, I get it. Instead, I stood in the entryway and chatted with a couple people while a small army of ticketgoers got scanned in – most of whom were 7 or 8 years old when Media came out in ’98. The Faint’s crowd is a young crowd, and seems to get younger every year.
Before I left I got a taste of those subs when Services – a synth duo whose keyboard racks were donned with florescent shop lights – kicked into their set. The bass was bone-rattling, startling. I could only imagine how loud it was going to be for The Faint. Or how hot it would be inside Sokol. It was a sweatbox standing in the doorway, and their set wasn’t going to start for another hour and a half.
The Faint are an enigma. They haven’t released a record since 2004 and their crowds just seem to grow larger. I’ve heard a few of their new songs at The Waiting Room in March. Some critics have pointed out that they seem less keyboard-driven and more straight-up rock. To me, the new stuff doesn’t stray much from Wet at Birth (which, by the way, was a pretty good album no matter what anyone says. Not as good as Danse Macabre, but that record ultimately will define their career). Imagine how huge they could be if they released a record that stretched their sound even further, instead of merely repeating themselves.
Well, if you missed it, you’ll get another chance tonight at Sokol Aud, where The Faint plays with Eagle*Seagull and Flowers Forever. As of this writing, it’s not sold out. Tickets are $15, show starts at 8 sharp. It’s a quiet weekend for shows thus far. Saturday at 8 p.m. Ted Stevens, Dan McCarthy and the ANALOG arts ensemble will present music from James Joyce’s Ulysses at the First Central Congregational United Church of Christ, 421 S. 36th Street (just south of Harney Street, just south of Kiewit Plaza and the Blackstone Hotel, just southwest of Mutual of Omaha, just southeast of McFoster’s). It’s free, in celebration of Bloomsday.
Speaking of free, Little Brazil and Drakes Hotel are doing an in-store at Homer’s downtown Saturday at 1 p.m.
Sunday’s a big night for shows. Tortoise plays at The Waiting Room Sunday night with Lichens. $15, 9 p.m. Brimstone Howl plays down at Sokol Underground with Barter the Trigger, Keep and Confess, & Eustace. $7, 9 p.m. And Bloodcow tears up O’Leaver’s with Filthy Few and Lotto Ball Show, 9:30 p.m., $5.
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