Show Review: We Are Scientists with Rewards (Aaron Pfenning) at Slim’s 8/7/10

by Marie Carney on August 9, 2010

Keith Murray brings it. Thanks to flickr user Diana Broeders for allowing use of this photo from a previous show.

Ah, a Saturday night show.  The one time the audience has no excuse but to bring the energy.  At the We Are Scientists show at Slim’s the energy was bursting from the seams.  There was great music, a relatively friendly crowd, a lot of laughter, and even more drinking.  At least that’s what happened where I was standing…

The opener, Rewards (aka Aaron Pfenning) was on stage when we got there.  When I was walking in I couldn’t help thinking that I’d time traveled back in time to a goth club in the 80’s with the drum machine and thoroughly reverbed/effect-ed vocals.  Of course, as a former goth I mean this in the best way possible.  Aaron Pfenning, alone on stage, may not have been the most consummate performer, but in his awkward-darkness he was quite endearing.  He made use of the whole stage, alternating standing and kneeling.  The music was lush, fully electronic and heavy on the effects, which gave it the retro-gothy feel (like he’s singing in a spooky cave), but the choice of beats and occasional use of auto-tune kept the sound more modern and interesting.  It wasn’t the kind of music that jumps out at you to immediately be loved, but the kind that slowly creeps inside.  Or as Vanessa put it “the more awkward he gets the more I’m like ‘He’s awesome!'” 

A whole 15 minutes before We Are Scientists’ scheduled start time, The Beach Boys’ “Kokomo” starts blaring overhead.  My natural instinct is to start singing along and it takes me a minute to realize that everyone else is singing too, even the 18-21 year olds, of which there are many.  Yes!  This must mean it’s time for the band!  I think to myself just as they walk out on stage to enthusiastic applause.  Right away the energy is there from the band and the audience, though it is escalated by bassist Chris Cain, in what was to be many amusing moments of between song banter/comedy, between the first two songs:  “It’s Saturday, so presumably you have all slept all day and don’t have to work tomorrow?  (cheers from audience) So you have no excuse!”

From the second song I knew for sure I was in for a good time.  The music was excellent, both singer/guitarist Keith Murray and bassist Chris Cain were on point, but what was really surprising was the quality of the stage banter.  Both band members have an excellent sense of timing and wit, which they punctuated for each other very well.  I can only assume that this comes from many years of playing together, and it made what would have been an excellent show an amazingly fun show.  For the rest of the night I kept repeating over and over, to anyone who would listen, “He said ‘Auxilliary Percussion!'”  as, to me, this was the best demonstration of the type of intelligent and bizarre humor they had. 

The more I think about it, the more I come to realize that We Are Scientists gave us as close to a  perfect show that I can think of.  The opener was entertaining and brought out the members of the headliner for his last song, giving us a good chance to warm up our screaming.  The band came out not just on time, but early, leaving only about 15 minutes between opener and headliner.  Even though they just released their fifth album, Barbara, the set was pretty evenly representative of all their albums, definitely not new album heavy.  Between songs there was always something funny or interesting said, including audience participation when Chris Cain pointed out some Austrian fans who were here on vacation.  Once the set was over, we chanted “One more song!” and they obliged in under five minutes with an encore, and also let us, the audience, choose the song (we chose “Cash Cow” in the moment.  I didn’t have the guts to yell for what I really wanted to hear, “Goal England,” because it’s been in my head for three days).  Then after the show Keith and Chris were at the merch booth, chatting with fans and selling the t-shirts themselves. 

In a way, it was all too perfect to actually be calculated, though if it was, We Are Scientists are brilliant evil masterminds!  But what I think is that they are two guys who are great musicians and really truly love what they do, and it is that passion and sense of fun that made everything just fall into place.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kerstin August 16, 2010 at 4:38 am

that was a great review. thank you.

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