On a balmy Sunday night at the Doug Fir, three very different bands squeezed into a single bill. Opening act the Franks, quick to tout childhood connections to the Pacific Northwest, loosened up a growing crowd of overzealous, sunburned weekenders
. While sounding somewhat like a an average Sex Pistols cover band, the L.A. trio compensated with amusing wisecracks and giddy stage antics. The standby musical formula of the Franks was apparent after just a few tracks, but their short songs kept the crowd from straying.
From soft punk, the evening mellowed into the pretty, pillowy backdrop of Freelance Whales
. The Queens, New York quintet is as pedantic as the name suggests, building bubbly melodic pop out of broad synthesizer brush strokes, airy vocals and glassy guitar crescendos. The band's frontman Judah Dadone sings with articulation, bouncing back and forth from speedy poetry to lengthy, wispy cries, especially on tracks like "Hannah" and "Starring." It's perpetually soothing but always a few words away from being so whiny you'd think Dashboard Confessional cloned itself and started playing in an abandoned cabin.
Some of Freelance Whales' best pieces are essentially folkier takes on the skeletons of older hits. “The Great Estates,” for example, mimics Weezer's “Only In Dreams” with some added banjo and a few layers of harmonization. In short, what Freelance Whales do, they do well. It simply isn't winning any contests in musical innovation. By and large, it's safe and silky ice cream for the ears. Maybe I'm just tired of the current trend of using barnyard instrumentation and song structure to achieve a traditional sound and—at least the sensation of—artsy, organic, oft-fictional suffering
. Or maybe I'm missing the point.
Next the satin pop tore when Stockholm, Sweden's Shout Out Louds
took over. Despite cleanliness and crispness in their sound, the post-punksters played like the pros they've become over a decade of playing. Singer Adam Olenius sounds terrifyingly similar to the Cure's Robert Smith
. SOL's twee pop ways are twice as fetching live, gussied up by co-vocalist Bebban Stenborg's dreamy voice and the ups and downs of Carl Von Arbin's uplifting strumming and saturnine segues.
During a rousing, cowbell-led performance of “Tonight I Have To Leave It” many in the audience wondered if the Cure was playing under a different name. That is, until a few band members instinctively fell into Swedish commands when speaking to the sound guy. Flexing the energy of fellow countrymen the Hives and a love for tantalizing '80s-like interplay between electric keys and electric guitar, Shout Out Louds are a well-armed, dangerously catchy Scandinavian machine. It was the first time in a long time I witnessed everyone in the Doug Fir's pit jumping around in unison
. And that means something.
Shout Out LoudSpace
Photos by Mark Stock