Show Review: Club Not So Silent Night 2010 w/ The Temper Trap, Sleigh Bells, The Limousines, A Silent Film at Mezzanine, 12/09/10

by Dakin Hardwick on December 10, 2010

For the last few years, local alternative rock radio station Live 105 has managed to put together one of the most interesting new music showcases out there. It’s called Club Not So Silent Night, and it happens the day before their much bigger event, simply named Not So Silent Night. Where the original Not So Silent Night is a showcase for already well known acts that receive substantial radio play to get up and play for the masses, the “Club” version features newer acts that wouldn’t normally be getting this kind of push from a commercial radio station, and the audience gets have bragging rights by saying that you saw the band in front of 900 people, instead of 10,000. (Case in point: 2008’s edition featured Vampire Weekend & The Cold War Kids and 2009’s featured Passion Pit & The Gossip) If the trend continues, this show was the last chance to see at least one of these acts in such a small space.

A Silent Film

A Silent Film warmed up the show with a brief (25 minutes) set of melodramatic pop songs, reminiscent of bands like Snow Patrol, Keane, and The Killers. Their singer, Robert Stevenson, has stage presence like few others out there. He stayed moving to the music, even while playing piano, and was always aware of the audience. As a live act, these guys have it down solid, but I felt that the actual songs were a bit lacking. It’s still early in their career, and I think that if they keep at it and actually seek out their own sound, they will be great. For now, they are in their Pablo Honey or Showbiz period. I’d like to see what happens when they make it to album three.

The Limousines

The Limousines are a band from Oakland, and the often get mistaken for an electronic band. This might be because they don’t have any member that plays a stringed instrument. They’ve got a drummer, and a guy that plays keyboards, a sampler, and an iPad. So, yes, that’s the recipe for an electro group. I honestly don’t know how they pull it off, but the performance we got from these guys at Mezzanine was pure rock n roll.

Lead singer Eric Victorino may be the secret weapon. He sings like the singer in a rock band, he also moves like the singer in a rock band. His voice may be one of the higher pitched voices in music, and usually that means you either sound delicate or whiny. He doesn’t sound like either of them. The closest comparison I can come up with is Perry Farrell, another singer that used his natural high pitched voice as a calling card, not a handicap. He sang with a pure passion, but also looked like he was having the time of his life up there. He managed to make eye contact with as many audience members as humanly possible, and even got the lip of the stage so he could grab audience members by the hand to pull them closer to the stage!

Sleigh Bells

This band is getting a lot of press these days. This is primarily because they are signed to MIA’s vanity label, and those folks know how to get the bloggers typing. (Much like what I am doing right now) With the amount of attention they are receiving, they are stuck having to deal with some pretty extreme expectations.

When the band took the stage, which consists simply of guitarist Derek Miller and singer Alexis Krauss, all of that hype suddenly seemed justified. Miller came out first and started chugging out some delirious heavy metal riffage in front of giant Marshall stacks. It was loud and brutal, and almost felt more like I was watching Slayer than a female fronted, NPR approved, New York hipster band. Krauss came out from behind the giant wall of amps moments later, and looked like she was ready to dive right into the crowd!

For the entire length of the set, which was about 35-40 minutes, it was non-stop. Miller kept pulling out riff after riff, while Krauss moved between soulful belting, screaming, shouting and crooning. She can yelp like Yoko and still sing a rock song like Ann Wilson, and has boundless energy. The crowd also ate it up! The floor erupted into a fierce pogo, and eventually a full on mosh pit! They played the show like they were the headliners, and the crowd responded as so. The bar was set awfully high, and it seemed unlikely that The Temper Trap would be able to jump it.

The Temper Trap

They band wisely opened with “Drum Song,” a percussion heavy instrumental piece, and it worked nicely as a palette cleanser. The song has the kind of energy that gets the crowd going, but also helped move away from the heavy metal thunder that was Sleigh Bells.

It was interesting to see this band in a live setting, once they moved into the more traditional song territory. All three bands that preceded them have incredibly charismatic front people. The kind of lead singers that you can’t take your eyes off of. Dougy Mandagi, vocalist for The Temper Trap, is the polar opposite. He is a bit awkward on stage, and it works for him. His movements are small, but they go a long way, and although his stayed smiling as much as he could, he never really interacted with the audience.

The live show it self is pretty far removed from the record. The album is full of U2-sized anthems. The live show was the antithesis of that. The more ambient effects on the record are dialed up, and the big, Edge-styled guitars are actually pulled back! I can easily see how some people would be let down by this show, but it was, in my humble opinion, much better. The vocals were pristine, and easy to hear. He sounded more like the shyest soul singer on earth than a rock n roll star, and it truly let the songs actually shine. This showcase felt almost like the MTV Unplugged approach, with the songs stripped down and given real breathing room.

It’s very rare for commercial radio to treat it’s listeners to an evening like this. I truly appreciate that somebody is trying to reach out to mainstream America with music that is truly interesting, and I love that people might actually embrace it! Thank you, Live 105, for reminding people that the masses aren’t idiots, and can be ready for something tasteful. Now if they would only lighten up on the Linkin Park…

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