Sunday, October 25, 2009

Just a Little Off Kilter

Wheat and Jukebox the Ghost at the Middle East, October 24

What occurred last night was a badly structured concert.

To begin with, the crowd was far too small for the Downstairs space at The Middle East. Downstairs fits something like 500 people while last nights crowd of about 150 would have fit, albeit snugly, into the more intimate upstairs space.

The first band up was The Needy Visions. They… well they need some vision. It wasn’t great. I spent half of their last song thinking they were singing “member of the peace” when in actuality they were singing “number of the beast.” Those are two very different things. They had no merch to sell, no CDs, just a “flyer and a mailing list.” Come on guys… how hard is it to burn a bunch of CDs and hand them out free instead of that flyer, so that people remember your music?

Next were The Motion Sick. They were pretty good. Their guitarist was damn near amazing – some of his solos were absolutely crazy. Their bassist had this short little trumpet that he would occasionally play and it was all quite cool. They also had a synchronized dance that they tried to get us to participate in for “Up-Up-Down” and I like anyone with synchronized dance moves. “Walk on Water” was good as well as “30 Lives.” Actually, most of it was good. Worth checking out, definitely.

Next, after many salmon pink balloons flying through the air, came Jukebox the Ghost. They were obviously the reason why the crowd was there. They played a lot of new songs, though some of them sounded familiar. I think that they have maybe been throwing “new” songs into their set for the past year to try them out. There was, however, one song that had never been played before a crowd “this far north,” and another that the pianist, Ben Thornewill, noted that he hoped to be playing on a keytar next time. A keytar? Could these boys make me smile any harder? They worked in a few old songs, “Victoria,” and “Hold it In” and “Good Day,” and the crowd loved it, but we also loved and danced through the new stuff. I’m optimistic about the new record – they seem to have kept all of their originality and feel in the new songs. They also seem to have retained the great play between Ben and Tommy’s vocals, which gets another thumbs up from me. I can’t wait for new material.

After their set, 75% of the crowd left. This was another huge structural flaw of the night because they weren’t the last band! Poor Wheat was left with a crowd of maybe 30 people. It’s rude to leave before the last band. However, we hit the final structural flaw that broke the camels back. The sound had been a little weird all night, but when Wheat began to play it was almost unbearable. Their computer tracks were turned up so high that it was drowning out the notes from almost everything else. Sure, I could feel the drums, but I couldn’t hear a note coming from that violin. To compensate, the guitars were turned way up and the vocals were brought up and it was just a jumbled mess of noise. I stayed for about 20 minutes in the hopes that the sound would all get sorted out and they would turn something down so that my ears would stop pounding and that poor boy in the front could pull his fingers out of his ears, but no. And so we left, wandered out into the Cambridge rain, and headed out. Sorry, Wheat. I’m sure you’re awesome and cool, but somebody in the sound booth did you a huge injustice.

The whole night was just a little off tilt, a little weird and wrong. I can’t quite put my finger on it but there was something fundamentally wrong with last night. It was unsettling and not right in my little musical world.

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