Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Frog Eyes and Fresca!

I'd waited three years to see Frog Eyes, and it finally happened over the weekend. Never mind that they're not the most brilliant band around, or that front man Carey Mercer looks like a Brad Arnold/Isaac Brock hybrid and sings like Tigger. They're refreshingly different, and I'd been hankering for refreshingly different as of late. Plus, they've got a new album out as of one week ago, and after getting a taste of “Stockades” via the internet, I'd been dying to hear all the new material live since I hadn't yet purchased the album.

As it turns out, “Stockades” is a highlight of Mercer at his most spastic, and the new tracks sound great on the whole. Plus, Frog Eyes is a band with material difficult to memorize (such happens when you're not a pop band, it seems), so there was none of that “play old material” bullshit with the audience. Their set was actually quite heavy on the new stuff, and Mercer spent most of the set playing second guitar – mostly with his tremolo, which made for a nice, heavy ring throughout. He's quite a spokesperson, too; a bit too intentional with the “quiet, eerie man” persona, a deep contrast to his uninhibited performance face and voice, but he's good at talking with the audience and preventing any awkward quiet time.

It also turns out that Frog Eyes has a female drummer, and a damn good one at that. Rides her bass drum without a step out of time, maintains a serious face and manages to look so much cooler than the goofy-looking men that stand in front of her. According to Stereogum, this female drummer is Melanie Campbell, and she's married to Carey Mercer. Imagine that! Anyhow, Frog Eyes started their set with Mercer telling a story about dropping his wallet into a toilet full of excrement (his own, natch), and ended by joining hands and bowing as a foursome at the front of the stage. Quite a show! If those kids were willing to make the rare trek down from Canada, surely you can put up a few bucks for their album. Subtle hint, indeed.

On a concluding note, the openers to the show were actually quite decent; The Henry Clay People, though a group of '90s-appropriate indie rockers that had me thinking “Stephen Malkmus, aye?” were actually entertaining with their brand of...ah...'90s-appropriate indie rock. Front man and guitarist were big and little brother, respectively, and poor little brother was the butt of big brother's teasing, a reminder that little brother was under 21 and wasn't allowed to watch the rest of the show. Poor little brother. The supporting act, Alex Delivery, was a frightening case of hyper-style: a short-haired blonde sporting the Twiggy look in a puffy '60s dress and tights, a keyboard player with a cross between a severe bob and mullet, and the token bearded guitarist, for three. What began as a now-stereotypical venture into percussion drone ended as something that felt like a nightmare of a German dance party – unnamed blonde did a sort of Dieter dance and sang the equivalent of a hum. I suddenly felt as though everyone in the room had taken a hallucinogen and was in on a joke that I didn't understand. Is that what it feels like to be at a rave when you're sober? Nonetheless, those bits in between were actually quite impressive, what with all the build-up. Thank heavens Frog Eyes isn't a stylish band, or else I'd have been running out of there with “Dieter, would you like a Fresca?” stuck in my mind.

Frog Eyes - Stockades
Frog Eyes - Bushels
(purchase Tears of the Valedictorian here)

Alex Delivery - Komad
(purchase Star Destroyer here)

The Henry Clay People (stream three tracks)
(purchase Blacklist the Kid with the Red Moustache here)

If you're going to be in Los Angeles this summer:

The Autumns have a weekly residency at Spaceland each Friday in May. They sound vaguely like Jeff Buckley.

The Rentals have returned for a weekly residency at Spaceland each Saturday in July. They sound like the product of Matt Sharp, founding and most exciting bass player of Weezer, surrounded by bespectacled girls. At least, this was the case when “Friends of P” was big.

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