The Whigs & The Features – North Star Bar 12 Dec 09

December 14, 2009

The Thickman’s 55th gig and 102nd – 104th acts of 2009

I entered the North Star Bar on Saturday, for the first time in god knows how long, with less than a pleasant mood.  I have found that my current two beer ceiling has made me even less patient and tolerant than I typically am.

It was definitely my first time in at least a year in the great Fairmount venue.  I realized that I miss it.  This Sunny Day Music promoter needs to pick up the pace for the Khyber & North Star in order to compete with R5.  I couldn’t help but reminisce about this decade’s great North Star shows.  Franz Ferdinand, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, British Sea Power (when they still had promise), The Breeders, J Mascis, Mike Doughty (just out of Soul Coughing & before Dave Matthews put his disgusting stink all over him), Bored to Death’s Jonathan Ames’s reading during the now defunct 215 Festival, The Frames, Girls vs Boys w/Gina Gershon (Nick Cage and a very drunk pair of Joaquin Phoenix/Adrien Brody were in attendance), discovering The National by accident when they opened for the god awful Elefant (was arm-twisted to go and now I do not regret it), Waco Brothers with a spirited cover of I Fought the Law dedicated to the recently departed Joe Strummer, & who knows what else I am forgetting.  Hell, even Snow Patrol & Keane were interesting to see in the tiny venue.

Enough of the tribute.  First up was Mean Creek (Boston?).  Admittedly, I had very quick trigger finger.  I lasted one and a half songs and went to the bar and watched In Bruges with subtitles.  Clearly, I wasn’t impressed but I will keep the panning to a minimum since I did not give them a chance.

When I headed back into the gig, I noticed a bit of a fratboy-ish atmosphere.  You can just sense that feeling in the air when it gets a bit douchey.  One benefit of a crowd such as this is that I will not receive snide looks as I would at hipster gigs since, for once, I was dressed sharply because I just came from a civilized Christmas party full of very nice, pleasant people.  I settled in next to the soundboard with one of my favorite gig-mates.  It is always a benefit to go to a show with someone who is 6’7″ when you are 6’5″.  It provides a sufficient rear buffer zone since no one can see over us.  After spying the crowd, I noticed a very interesting specimen.  An eagle-printed leather vested fauxhawk who was dispensing high fives and slow dancing with his lady to the music in between sets.  Before you ask, no he did not have a chain wallet which quite surprised me.  I went to the lengths of asking someone to check for me to verify.  Also, this wasn’t a Philadelphia Eagle on his vest.  No, it was the cool kind.  Unfortunately, I do not need any more friends so I kept clear and just observed.  I had so many questions for him but I sensed that his answers would have done my head in.  I will spare the four people who read this post of my extreme and irrational hatred for fauxhawks.  Also, high fives are always avoided by the large fella unless they come from a child under ten or if I am reaching over a minimum of two people to celebrate an Eagles touchdown at the Linc.

Next were The Features (Nashville).  I have seen The Features twice open for Kings of Leon in very small venues before Kings of Leon sucked.  My opinion of them was always high after seeing them live.  Early on, I picked up two of their CDs and was less than impressed since it did not sound like the same band.  The Features are a half-flanneled and bearded/half-smartly dressed and nerded band with anthemic tendencies.  The keyboardist looked like a mixture of Ben Gibbard and Jeff Duberville which I liked and disliked at the same time.  Unsettling comparison.  The lead singer has very distinct vocals that are hard for me to come up with a comparison for.  He has one of those brilliant voices that comes through clearly even when he is standing 3 feet back from the microphone.  Their keyboards and drums are the most distinct instruments of the band.  The keyboards lay a lovely reminder of the late 1960s, where if they lived in that era, they would have been absolute hitmakers.  Now, the drums.  This guy was fantastic.  I was more and more impressed with him as the gig went on.  He played in a frenetic yet controlled manner that was the highlight of the show.  It is a nice touch when a frontman knows when to step aside.  This happened on each song when the inevitable booming drum bits occurred.  He subtly yet quickly would clear the stage for his drumming star and play his part on stage-left with the bassist.   Great set that was thoroughly enjoyed by all who were with me and by everyone in the venue.  Was only distracted a handful of time by the fauxhawk and his wild high-fives and then by two of the douchies as they argued with the sound guy while he was working.  They were concerned that he did not have a trash can for their bottles.  I did have the urge to tell them that this wasn’t the time to complain about the layout of the North Star’s trash cans.  Wanted to say that he was working but I kept to myself.  They started pressing buttons on the soundboard and got tossed which was delightful.

The Features need to find a good producer and get someone who can capture that live sound and put it in a recording or they can go cheap and just make a live album.  I am sure that their next release will be improved as they are the first band signed on Kings of Leon’s new record label, Imprint.  Great, great performance.  I will go see them every time that they are in town.

And then there are The Whigs.  The Whigs are a mildly hyped band from Athens, Ga who I read and heard were fantastic live.  They have received comparisons to Nirvana’s live energy which will clearly grab one’s attention.  The first thing that frightened me is that the permed bassist with the well-groomed beard came on stage with a hoody and leather coat.  It was very hot.  I thought that no one can get away with a leather coat on stage today other than Mike Ness.  To my enjoyment, he shed the nonsensical idea.  I then became concerned with the use of a smoke machine inside the little North Star.  Trocadero, TLA, even Johnny Brenda’s, yes.  North Star Bar, no.  Also,  gradually the crowd was shrinking before they even came on stage which is clearly a poor sign.  I sported a quizzical look as they came on stage to Florida State University’s tomahawk chop song.  Why?  Is there a native american in the band?  Would not the University of Georgia fight song be more appropriate considering their home base?  My vitriol really began within 4 chords of the first song.  An absolute theft of Nirvana’s “About a Girl”.  Not an homage.  Not a play off of it.  It was the same exact chords.  Bad for step one.  Step two was that the drums were Very loud but Very mediocre.  He was sporting a quasi-Dave Grohl circa 1993 hairdo.  Weak.  Step 3 and the nail in the coffin were the utterly awful vocals and contrived enthusiasm sported by the singer/lead guitarist.  Absolutely painful to watch.  His running guitar strum while barreling towards the stage was a bit much.  His vocals were forced and unnatural.  If I wanted to enjoy a band that is supposed to be up and coming and has listened to a lot of Nirvana and The Stooges, I would hop in the wayback machine and go see The Burning Brides circa 2002 (Although they never really arrived.  Good!  Screw them. They abandoned Philly for L.A.). This guy’s guitar playing while hopping around on one leg was making me insane.  But get this shocking revelation, the douchey fratboy types were absolutely lapping it up.  I was being polite by not asking the others to leave.  When it was noticed that I was not paying attention anymore and only playing Scrabble on my iPhone, I received a pity offer to go and was out of there in a flash.  I think that we lasted 6-7 songs.  There was a steady stream out of the venue before and after us.

The Whigs will eventually hit something that will appeal to a certain type of individual.  Someone who is less than interested in creative thought.  they will get some sort of opening slot on a tour with a Creed-type and become very popular.  It will make me bananas when I hear a single that allows this contrived, derivative sound create income.  But to each their own.  As for my own, all Whigs material was deleted from my Mac yesterday morning never to be seen again.

My reaction to them was far worse in the wee hours of Sunday morning.  Fortunately for you, I was too tired to type.  Maybe I need to start drinking again.

On deck (for now): Rural Alberta Advantage – Kung Fu Necktie – 6 Jan 2010




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