The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Beards, Cardigans And Glasses: Voxtrot ; Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Ramesh Srivastava, the frontman for Austin-based quintet Voxtrot is the best lead singer to ever be named Ramesh. Of course, that doesn't say a damned thing about the greatness of the band Voxtrot, but then again, I just wanted to write that sentence. Fair enough.

For the last few months, Voxtrot have been catching fire on the Mp3 blogs, as each website has fallen all over itself to incessantly praise and hype the band to no end. After catching Voxtrot's performance at the UCLA Cooperage on Monday night, it's safe to say, the MP3 blogs are right. Voxtrot is the real deal.

You have to feel sorry for a band getting booked to play the Cooperage. The venue is many things, a place where a young 8-year old Jeff Weiss attended many a bowling and pizza party at UCLA's now defunct bowling alley (it's elimination was a calamitous mistake, but that's another story). It's a place where I used to play arcade games all night for $5 my freshman year of high school. It's a cafeteria where UCLA students eat fast food, drink coffee and study. But it is not a real concert venue by any strech of the imagination

So this was the scene Monday night: a mixture of college students who'd been eating/studying and decided to stay for some unknown band that was about to play, guests of the band, a few students looped into the excellence of Voxtrot (no doubt being prepped to rock the hipster uniforms of beards, cardigans and glasses in no time), and me, swilling a diet coke in the back of the Cafeteria, listening into the sound of a band on the brink.

Srivastava is a great rock n' roll frontman but not in the traditional sense. This is no Mick Jagger inciting riots, but rather an excellent talent, capable of writing shimmering pop gems three minutes in length. Think the Smiths, but more danceable (if that's your bag) and less melancholy. Prior to watching the band live, I thought the Smiths comparisons were pretty overblown, but in person you can definitely hear shades of Morrissey in Srivastava's voice.

The thing about Voxtrot's songs is that just when you might think they're in danger of getting a tad boring, repeating the same riff for too long, the same drumbeat for just a few extra seconds, they shift on a dime to another fluid and melodious beat. Each band member works in perfect unison with each other and their technical proficiency belies the fact that they haven't even released an LP. Their set ran only aboout 45 minutes, but in that time they managed to get most of the students in the Coop dancing frenetically and joyously (I continued to sip my DC in the back...natch). Keep in mind, this isn't even close to a concert hall. To get everyone to stay and watch was a triumph, let alone to have them go wild for the band.

I know my praise for bands and rappers can at times get a bit effusive, but this band is the real thing. They've already been generating a good bit of heat in the music underground and have sold out the Mercury Lounge in NYC weeks in advance. And now even the mainstream press is tuning in, Spin just did a piece on them which you can read here, or go to their Myspace page to listen to some of their songs. I can't recommend them enough. Really. The live show is excellent and I picked up both EPs they've put out, which are also outstanding.

As I'm sure everyone knows, bands come in several stages. Some bands are terrible, some are just bad, some are average (or a'ight as I like to say), some are good, some are very good, and some are just plain great and worth checking out every single time they come to your town. I get the feeling that Voxtrot is going to develop into one of those great bands, as it is, they're already pretty damned close.

Passion of the Weiss Rating: 9.5

When I told people I was seeing Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at the Henry Fonda, response tended to get divided into two camps. One group of people responded: "Uggh..you're going to see those guys. They suck. Those stupid leather jackets. They think they're so so cool. I hate that band. They're lame."

OR people would go on and on about how great they are. I couldn't figure out how such a strak dichotomy of opinion had erupted over a band I didn't know much about. In fact, prior to going to the concert, I'd only heard a couple MP3's of tracks off of their latest album, "Howl," tracks that I liked quite a bit.

When I saw them, I understand how people either loved them or hated them. First off, their name is "Black Rebel Motorcycle Club." If you're going to have a name like that you better bring the ruckus like Iggy Pop on the "Raw Power" album, something vicious, primal and snarling. BRMC do not bring the ruckus like Iggy Pop, therefore the name doesn't fit. At all.

Furthermore, the fact that they only wear leather doesn't exactly help them out. I mean check out these dudes (click here) They look like a lot of things, but a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club...not so much. The look is a little tired. I mean, honestly who wears only leather anymore? I'm not saying the guys need to start dressing like Franz Ferdinand or anything, but a new look wouldn't hurt.

But the fact is that the Black Motorcycle club put on an very good show last night at the Henry Fonda Theater in Hollywood. In my mind, the first 20 minutes were prolly the high point of the show, as Peter Hayes, the band's frontman, came out alone and did three tracks off of Howl. No other members of the band, just Hayes playing raw rootsy blues slide guitar and harmonica. Now I'm typically wary of most white guys today that try to play the Blues (see John Mayer) , but Hayes showcased a simple yet elegant blues guitar and he plays a mean mean harmonica (still the most underrated musical instrument ever).

By the time the full band joined him for the rollicking, foot stomping cut, "Ain't No Easy Way," the crowd was pounding its feet in unison with the thundering drum beats. This probably marked the high water point of the show, though the band remained solid from therein, it just had difficulties sustaining the high level of energy that kicked off the show.

BRMC definitely gave fans their money's worth, playing a full one and a half hour set with two encores. The middle portion of the concert was filled with material from the band's first two albums. It wasn't hard to tell what was what as the first two albums sound sort of like Jesus and Mary Chain-esque dream pop, more ethereal, no harmonica, harder guitars, harder drums.

BMRC ended the show with more material from Howl, which seems to be band's strongest album thus far. But the middle material wasn't bad, just not able to match up with the strength of Howl's bluesier, folk-inflected sound. Now if only the guys could get a new look, I'd wouldn't have anything bad to say about them. I also recommend picking up the Howl lp, but buy it off Itunes because it's practically impossible to rip it to your itunes from the physical CD. Something to do with Sony's war with Apple. It's ridiculous. I've spent all morning trying to figure it out. Listen to BRMC here:

Passion of the Weiss Rating: 8.5

Also worth noting was opener Elefant, who seemed to have the underage girls in the audience going nuts. They definitely weren't my style, a little too contrived, a little too forced. The singer seemingly confused if he was supposed to act like Morrissey or Frank Sinatra or both. It was too bad, because Elefant's rhythm section is outstanding. Then again, maybe I'm being a bit too hard on Elefant's lead singer. It's just that the guy looks like he's doing a Jared Leto/Jordan Catalano impression and that my friends is not cool. I am certain of few things, but paramount of all the things I am certain of, is that Jared Leto is a huge douche. Check out the lead singer of Elefant here vs. Leto/Catalano here.
Nuff said. (thanks to Jeff Cowan for pointing out the uncanny resemblance)

5 Comments:

At 6:45 PM, Blogger Ian said...

I'm kind of pissed I missd BRMC when they came to Athens. But when I worked at the radio station in Charlottesville, I remember the station manager telling me that she interviewed BRMC and they're trivia buffs.

 
At 6:50 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

I don't know if that's incredibly awesome or incredibly lame. Though, sadly I confess to having a sick trivia addiction when I was a young child. Shamefully, I was one happy young lad when my parents bought me the Jeopardy game on the old school Nintendo.

 
At 7:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey! Very Nice! Check out this website I found where you can get a FREE
GAME SYSTEM. It's not available everywhere, so go to the site and put
in your zipcode to see if you can get it. I got mine and sold it!

http://www.degree-programs-online.info/extramoney.htm

 
At 7:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey! Very Nice! Check out this website I found where you can get a FREE
GAME SYSTEM. It's not available everywhere, so go to the site and put
in your zipcode to see if you can get it. I got mine and sold it!

http://www.degree-programs-online.info/extramoney.htm

 
At 3:13 AM, Blogger Nate said...

Dude,

You totally brought back tons of childhood memories of me wandering about the cooperage. When I was in middle school, I totally thought that was the best place ever. I

 

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