We Were Promised Jetpacks and special guests, April 6, 2012

>> Saturday, April 07, 2012

I almost didn't go. I wanted to go; months ago, I mean, when I heard We Were Promised Jetpacks were coming to town. Then I kind of sort of forgot to get tickets and then I was out and about yesterday and saw the sign up on the marquee at The Neighborhood Theatre. "Oh, shit, that's tonight?"

Going was a last-minute thing, and I missed half the bill or maybe a third of it. Jetpacks were supposed to have three openers, but I only caught one of them and when I looked at the schedule I wasn't entirely sure whether I'd missed half a set or one and a half sets.

The first full set I caught was Bad Veins, a Cincinnati duo with a somewhat unconventional live setup: guitarist/keyboardist Benjamin Davis sometimes sings through a rejiggered telephone handset and drummer Sebastien Schultz is also in charge of turning an onstage reel-to-reel deck playing backing tracks on and off. This latter bit is either very cool or a little off-putting: Bad Veins would be something like the nine-hundred-millionth band to use pre-taped backing tracks in their live show, and at least they have the nerve to make the tape deck a completely open non-secret; and yet there's this traditionalist part of me that wonders how they'd sound stripping everything down to guitar and drums (if you don't think that's a viable stage lineup, you've never seen a White Stripes or Local H show), or, alternatively, how they'd sound with a touring band (though that's a financial mess for a relatively young indie band and it's obvious why a tape deck would be preferable in terms of what fits in a van and food and lodging, etc.).

But it was a good set, and I'll be picking up some BV at some point down the line. They're coming back to Charlotte as headliners at some point in the near future and I may try to grab that show if I have a chance, too.

I was mostly out to see We Were Promised Jetpacks, an Edinburgh four-piece with an aggressively melancholy sound I adore. I wasn't disappointed. They hit the stage just a couple of minutes after eleven and cranked everything up for a guitar-driven set that was joyously sombre, a quality that somehow seems quintessentially Scottish, and played for about an hour, which was perfect.

"Aggressive melancholy" and "joyously sombre" are oxymorons that seem to beg for elaboration and yet doing so seems an awful like the old Martin Mull line re: writing about music being like dancing about architecture. The band writes grey music that's cranked up to exuberant tempo and volume; it's a little bit hard not to bounce around even after noticing a lot of the lyrics are about being small, cold and vulnerable. Come to think about it, The Smiths managed that trick on several records, so maybe I'm not sure why it seems like such a Scotland thing after all, but there you are.

I find myself without a lot more to say about the set beyond it was fantastic and I was glad I went. I'm not sure what else there is to say. Check the guys out if they're in your area.

"Quiet Little Voices", from their first album (These Four Walls), was featured here back in '09. You can hit that link if you want, and I'll try to put up something from Jetpacks and Bad Veins tomorrow.


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