The Passion of the Weiss

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

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Beards, Blazers & (Frat) Boys?: The National

I'll spare the long-winded review of the National show. I've made my thoughts on the band clear on one, or two, or three occasions. They're a very good band with an even better live show, so it really shouldn't come as much a surprise that the El Rey was packed to the gills with fans, bristling with anticipation at the prospect of seeing the cuts from Boxer performed live in Los Angeles for the first time.

Stranger was the make-up of the crowd, with nary a hipster in sight. In their stead were sorority girls, frat boys, in-the-know slick Hollywood types and the few die-hards that have been down with the cause since Day 1 (if day one means when Alligator was released). Granted, the El Rey is on the Westside, but still... I'm not trying to play the "oh man, if you didn't see them on tour with Clap Your Hands in '05 then you're totally out of the know" card either (though they really did blow CYHSY out of the water). But it still defies logic that the National have become a "trendy" band.
We Got Poindexter on the Violins

I mean take a look at these guys, there is absolutely nothing trendy about them. Nothing. Just a bunch of unpretentious dudes in work shirts and jeans. And we're not talking a bunch of jaded wispy hipsters named Casablancas and Fabrizio, these guys are far from pretty boys. Not to hate on them, as I have the utmost respect for the band, but there's a reason why Ian Cohen and I have spent a great deal of time debating whether or not The National or Asobi Seksu are the least attractive band in America. (my vote still goes to Asobi, save for their lead singer)

As for their sound, it isn't pretty populist Shins-esque pop, or Arcade Fire-like bombast. Their tunes certainly display first rate songwriting and craft, but essentially the last two National records are what everyone wished Interpol would've done after Turn on the Bright Lights. Meanwhile, National lead singer Matt Berninger does the whole Ian Curtis thing as well as anyone can, but it ain't like he's exactly that charismatic. He rarely talks to the crowd and his stage demeanor vacillates between two nearly indistinguishable variations: rocking mode and swaying mode. With the rocking mode featuring Berninger performing a move that vaguely resembles the Mongolian Chop as performed by Kin Korn Karn in the old NES game Pro Wrestling.
Pro Wrestling's Kin Korn Karn: A Huge Influence on The National

And yet no one in the crowd cared a bit. The affected LA Westsiders weren't exactly rocking out, (probably because the set leaned heavily on Alligator), but I did see a couple frat boys raising the roof, and after the show the unanimous sentiment seemed to be in favor of the band's awesomeness. I couldn't argue with them either. It was my second time seeing the band in as many weeks and both performances were stellar, further evidence that they are one of the best bands making music today. Just don't be surprised if the next time you see them live, the cans of PBR are strangely absent. Judging from these dudes' new fan base, it's strictly jaeger shots, brah.

All photos courtesy of Akmal Naim. Check out his Flickr page for more outstanding shots.

MP3: The National-"Fake Empire"
MP3: The National-"Mistaken For Strangers"


At 7:27 AM, Blogger Wayne said...

Please send this band to Australia, now!

At 10:25 AM, Anonymous floodwatch said...

Jesus, Weiss. The "Mongolian Chop"? Everyone in the office just stared at me for my Tourette's-like laughing outburst.

The ol' wife dragged me to see this band about four years ago, and it was a hell of show. Of course, there were probably about two dozen people in the audience at most, all bearded, dark-rimmed glassed, and, um, blazed. I would have never imagined the kind of audience at one of their shows that you just described - they just don't seem like that kind of band.

At 10:30 AM, Blogger The Drizzle said...

I saw them at The Earl in Atlanta a few weeks ago. Although the fact that it was at The Earl, i.e. in a backroom off a bar in East Atlanta whose closest neighbors are a tattoo pallor, a gay bar, several other bars with no apparent names, and a healthy sprinkling of vacate lots, probably didn't allow as many surprising people to sneak in, I was surprised by the makeup too.

I didn't run into too many girls that I would definitely peg as sorority girls. However, there were without a doubt several groups of 4 or 5 guys that were strongly fratty, for which there was no apparent reason for them to know about the show or be there.

On the other hand, the same frightening middle aged guy that pops up at every show of this ilk was there, wandering around early as usual. And there were several hipster couples that spent 20 minutes discussing vinyls with the merch girl.

But in the end, the number of PBRs I ran into could be counted on one hand and I remember 2 or 3 blazers at best, and truly, those are the only metrics that really matter.

Also, Abel is a kickass closer.

At 12:31 PM, Anonymous dudeasincool said...

'Boxer' is the kind of album that you have to listen to a number of times before it kicks in--so if i were to give the audience the benefit of a doubt, then maybe they were in spaceland because they didnt know the material. Yes it was a great show, but it was a really strange audience.

And do I qualify as one of the 'Hollywood' slick types? :)

At 2:21 PM, Blogger douglas martin said...

wow. frat boys? i was kind of shocked when i went to the bloc party show earlier this year and saw them there, but the initial surprise subsided when i remembered that they were getting alternative rock radio airplay, on the playlist right between my chemical romance and old pearl jam records.

but the national? i mean, sure, they have a "breaking out" feature in spin magazine [i almost choked on my saliva from laughing so hard when i first saw it], but there are no other signs of major crossing over. being as though they're playing seattle in capitol hill [the most hipsterish part of town by an embarassingly wide margin], i'm sure there will be plenty of beards and PBR on tap.

as far as the national themselves, it's pretty obvious to say that-- live or otherwise-- they're one of the five or ten best bands in america right now. from sad songs for dirty lovers onward, they've released nothing but near-flawless material.

one of my favorite band-heckler exchanges was when they came to town last year. the heckler in question shouted, "play 'murder me racheal,' " and berninger bewilderedly replies, "we already played that."

At 2:31 PM, Anonymous angrycitizen said...

when I saw the national last year this guy in front of me was talking about his love for Matchbox 20!!!!

At 7:57 AM, Blogger sarah said...

excellent post and comments! i'm still feeling a little giggly.

oh, and when they're in australia, would they mind a side trip to manila?


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