Show Review: Art Brut with Princeton at Cafe Du Nord, 10/30/09 (Late Show)

by Gordon Elgart on November 2, 2009

Top of the pops!

Top of the pops!

When Art Brut comes to town, I get excited. Not only do I love the band, I also see them as the kind of band that tends to quit on the U.S. They blast onto the scene with the exceptional album Bang Bang Rock & Roll, and I saw them touring to promote that album four or five times. Their second album, It’s a Bit Complicated, was a relative disappointment. I’ve seen this happen with other British bands: their second album doesn’t perform well over here, and then I only get to hear about UK and European tours, sadly waiting for the one day they might return to our shores. Instead, Art Brut teamed up with producer Frank Black for the phenomenal Art Brut vs. Satan, and they have continued their attack on America.

San Francisco was blessed with two shows in one night, both at Cafe Du Nord. There was an early all ages show and a late night 21+ show. While the early show was reportedly sparsely attended, this late show billed itself as sold out.

Princeton, an LA indie pop band featuring twin brothers, was the opening band, and my friend leaned into me after their first song, and said “they’re like a boring Vampire Weekend.” I started mulling over the similarities in dress, and the whole Ivy League of it all, when something happened. They became less boring. It’s smart of an opening band to finish with their bounciest, best material because the crowd is larger at the end than at the beginning. So Princeton is a smart band after all, which made me think more about the whole Ivy League of it all. Also, by the end, they didn’t remind me anything of Vampire Weekend, except for the clothes. Know this, when Princeton finally get to the point in the set where they ask you to dance, you’ll probably dance.

Art Brut have the distinction of being the first band I saw at Glastonbury that I was now seeing not-at-Glastonbury. I wondered how the change in venue size (from about 50,000 to about 200) would affect my enjoyment of the set, and I should tell you, I enjoyed it all the same.

Most Art Brut songs are works in progress. The singer/raconteur Eddie Argos changes the lycics to tell a newer version of the story. The “My Little Brother” is now 27. “Emily Kane” gets an epilogue where we’re updated on her reaction to the song, and how Eddie’s feelings have changed about it. “Modern Art” is no longer the thing that makes “me want to rock out,” but rather “DC Comics.” (This gives the comic book company two songs during this set, as they also played “DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake.”)

During the set, after playing the erectile dysfunction anthem “Rusted Guns of Milan,” Eddie pointed out that it was a late show, and therefore safe for playing the “blue material.” He pointed out that his girlfriend’s entire family was there, which caused them all to scream and wave. “It’s a good thing I don’t now where they are,” he commented, so they screamed again. He pretended not to hear or see them, out of mock embarrassment for having sung this song in front of them.

While Eddie gets most of the press, the band playing behind him (each one is introduced individually as “Art Brut” but with actual names found here) are an absolutely killer punk rock combo.  The guitar riffs are all super catchy and the rhythm section keeps everything driving forward. The guitar player known during the show as “Art Brut,” but sometimes Jasper Future, constantly makes crazy faces to punctuate what he’s playing. Freddy Feedback on bass constantly smiles, and sings along even though she doesn’t have a microphone. Ian Catskilkin on guitar plays all sorts of tasty lead guitar licks. And drummer Mikey Brewer stands up at his drum set, keeping it all moving.

You can count on a few things during an Art Brut show, and all of them happened.  There will be raucous sing alongs, there will be an aborted attempt at starting a mosh pit by somebody who’s very drunk but unfamiliar with their fanbase, and Eddie will sing at least one song while mostly out in the crowd. I’m really glad that Art Brut has decided to continue plying their craft here in the United States, and I hope to see them again soon.

Art Brut’s setlist (Note: “18,000 Lira” replaced “Bang Bang Rock & Roll” in the set, and was also the first song of the two-song encore):


Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Marie Carney November 2, 2009 at 4:27 pm

Eddie’s girlfriend’s family was supposedly at the Independent last time they were here. She must be from SF!


Vanessa Romero November 2, 2009 at 5:50 pm
Marie Carney November 2, 2009 at 10:40 pm

suspicion confirmed! And that was hillarious. lol for reals.

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