Friday night, a few iron-clad degenerates ventured to THE PREMIERE CONCERT VENUE in downtown Des Moines to see some greasy degenerates play rock music. Tapes 'n Tapes came to town, both supporting their independently-released smash The Loon and trying out some new material on the road.
We started with a solid cast knocking back Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout at the Royal Mile, a full-service "English pub" that has the dual benefits of being right next door to the rock club, and having tons of heavy beers so I can be lit pre-show. The jukebox also does not suck.
The particular group of degens includes my concert buddy Reno, who is basically my doppelganger (except he makes it into the gym more than once a week), Jay and Allison (a married couple who dig indie rock, very cool kids) and Mike (who loves Kings of Leon, but has enough good taste to make up for it). This is completely unimportant, but did allow me the classic RC maneuver of "buying rounds of 5, then being completely unable to carry them back to the table" . . . some things never change?
Opening act Ladyhawk showed some spark and solid chops, finishing with two hook-laden tracks that did not really separate from the indie pile - probably something to check out, but nothing that got the crowd moving. Pretty much exactly what you'd expect from a $12 early show on a regional tour.
Anyway, TnT started off strong, opening with "Just Drums" - it's always an interesting gambit to start the concert off with the first track on the album, but here it just worked. No intro, just jump right in - and already, the crowd was rocking. Few sang along, but that wasn't any bother - the TnT guys just appeared happy to be there. The set was solid, and the live show very tight - everything was in order, no technical issues other than the keyboard levels being a little low for my tastes - and the band's cohesion was second-to-none.
Tracks played much more strongly live than on wax, with tracks like "Ten Gallon Ascot" becoming rocking monsters with crowd backup during the chorus. TnT even inserted a little odd tension at times (see: "TGA"), leaving me the impression that the next record could show strong growth . . .
. . . that is, except for the new tracks they played. Generally without exception these tracks were mediocre, showing a different slant on the straightforward TnT sound but without any of the hook or free-wheeling lo-fi spirit that made The Loon great. Indeed, they even left the best of the new tracks, "Buckle", completely off the setlist, a questionable decision at best.
With a late scheduling change forcing the band off early (10pm show, some random DJ, added at last minute in a classic "WTF?" moment), there was no encore - instead, there was a raucous, loud, incredibly fast version of "Insistor", and the best performance of the night was certainly reserved for the best tune on the album. With a little more pace and some screaming vocals (plus an infusion of the formerly-introduced tension into the bridges), the house came down . . . only to be let down with another mediocre new track to finish, then lights-up without encore.
Overall, a solid showing, one that indicates the band is coming together strongly - however, the new tracks let some of the air out of the room, and don't portend well for the next album. Unfounded indicators of sophomore slump aside, though, a great night indeed.
I woke up at 3pm the next day - again, some things never change.