Ok, right off the bat let me say that I went to this show just to see the Rx Bandits, so if you're a big fan of any of the supporting acts you may want to turn away now or risk being offended by my terrible coverage of those bands. Sound good? Alright, let's move along...
I was REALLY looking forward to this as it was at my favorite venue, it featured the Rx Bandits, one of my favorite bands, and it had been a long time since I'd been to a decent show. The last one I'd been to was (ready your best insults) the 2003 Civic Tour with Good Charlotte, New Found Glory, Less Than Jake and Hot Rod Circuit. I went to that show just to see LTJ, as I've never missed them any time they've been in the Virginia/DC area in 7 years. I wasn't going to let Good Charlotte, New Found Glory, and a screaming mob of 13 year olds and their parents stop me. That bit of information may seem to have no relevance to this review, but in a way it does. In case you can't figure out the obvious, it makes a WORLD of difference seeing a band in a small club rather than a 3,000 seat stadium. I love Less Than Jake, I think they are the best live band I've ever seen, but seeing them in that atmosphere killed any sense of intimacy or effect they have as a live band. Walking into the 9:30 Club for this show, being back in a small setting with a small crowd, the bands no more than 20ft away, was quite a refreshing feeling. I showed up about 20 minutes late, walking in during Steel Train's last song.
I didn't list Steel Train as being on this bill as I only saw them for 3/4 of one song, so I didn't think it would be fair to say I really "saw" them. I'm going to say this though, based on that one song, they are the most boring, listless, unentertaining band ever. If I'm wrong, by all means please correct me as I'm really basing this on 3 minutes of performance, but for a closing song, it almost put me to sleep. The lead singer just stood there, clutching himself insecurely like he'd been depantsed in front of the whole crowd 5 minutes earlier. His singing was very soft and unemotional. The only thing that remotely interested me was the fact the singer had a xylophone next to him on stage. You don't see those at punk shows everyday. However, unless the Beastie Boys rushed the stage and launched into "Girls" I don't really think I missed anything. Score: 0
Next up was Fairweather. My roommate who came to the show is in a local band and loves Fairweather. He's played with them a couple of times I guess and swore to me they would sonically assault my ass. He overstated it, but they were pretty good. I noticed one of the guitar players was Ben Green, a kid who went to my high school. That plus the amount of crowd support they had leads me to believe they are from this area because more than a handful of kids were going especially crazy. They were very energetic and put on a pretty good show. The lead singer kept holding the mic out to the crowd for sing alongs and random people were frequently jumping on and off the stage. One thing I would recommend to future stage divers: when you get on stage, don't run up behind the singer and repeatedly tap him on the back to get him to hand you the mic. I'm pretty sure that does nothing but confuse him. That happend at least three times during Fairweather's set and each time the guy singing just looked like "What the fuck is going on?" as he tried to turn around and find out why people were slapping him from behind. He was a big dude too, so cut him some slack, he's got a lot of blind spots. Anyway, the only song title I caught was Lusitania, which I believe they said was also the name of their forthcoming album. I have no idea what they sound like on cd, but I'd give them a chance as their show was a good time. Score: 7
After Fairweather came No Motiv. I don't know what happend, but the crowd just died at this point. I give the band props for trying hard to get the crowd going, but after awhile it was just kind of painful to watch. The bass player would start clapping, trying to get the crowd to join in. That pretty much tanked. After a couple of tries a couple kids joined in, whether it be out of pity or because they were fans will remain one of life's mysteries. Musically, I wasn't too into them. Maybe it's where I was standing, but to me it sounded like the only things plugged in were the lead singer/guitarists mic and guitar, and the drums. I couldn't hear the bass, I couldn't hear any of the backing vocals. Their sound was much too trebly, to the point where it was annoying. It's sad, because they did try, but the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the crowd and the bad sound just turned me off. I'd have to give them another shot to really make up my mind on them. Score:5
The Rx Bandits. I love this band so much, so I'll freely admit I'm biased. Progress is one of my favorite albums of all time, and about 1/3 of Halfway Between Here and There I feel is great, the other 2/3 sounds like a mediocre Reel Big Fish album, but it's still good. I saw the Bandits at last years Warped Tour and really really enjoyed what they did just in that 30 minute set, so I was dying to see what they'd pull off as headliners. They didn't disappoint. Say what you will about ska being dead, or Drive Thru records being a machine that mass produces commerical pop-rock, the Rx Bandits are undeniably talented. Honestly, the highest compliment I can give to this band is that they are just damn talented musicians. They came out to little fanfare, no banner, no intro music, no fancy lights or smoke machine. Trombonist Chris Sheets just grabbed the mic and said "Are you guys ready to dance with us? To sing with us? To have a good time?" Matt Embree added "Be respectful to each other out there" and off they went. The crowd immediately blew the fuck up. I thought they may have all zombified after No Motiv, but the whole place came alive after the first note. Skanking, moshing, crowd surfing, it was on. The band never let up for a second. I honestly don't think there was a single second of the whole show where they stopped playing other than the two times they paused to introduce new songs. Rather than crack lame jokes or go into some VH1 Storytellers shit about how a song came to be they would just jam from song to song. That was what impressed me most. Their songs didn't end, they just expanded into something new, Matt Embree freestyling lyrics, the rest of the band jamming along, before gradually building up to the next song. Even the established songs had added horn solos or little lyrical changes that gave them so much freshness and life beyond the recorded versions. Their sound was definitely on point, which helped all these little nuances stand out. Matt Embree is a damn good singer I must also point out. He reminds me a lot of Brad Nowell from Sublime, which to me, is a high compliment. His singing is certainly passionate, although the band as a whole was incredibly energetic. Most everything off of Progress was played, from VCG3, Analog Boy, Status and get to the slower reggae tunes such as Babylong and All Rwanda's Glory. Sell You Beautiful, the new song that was on this site for awhile, sounded decent to me when I downloaded it, but it is much better live. They've added horns and made it sound much more like an Rx Bandits song rather than the typical pop-punk that is all over the radio. They also played The Resignation, the title track off the new album. This is more of a slow burning reggae song, which I was thrilled to hear as I would hate to see the Bandits distance themselves from the old sound I love so much. Ok, I've rambled on and on, I know and I apologize. I'll close with this, you may think you hate ska, you may think you hate reggae, but if you are a fan of not just punk, but music in general, I urge you to give this band a chance. If the music itself doesn't move you, maybe the energy and talent on display will. Fuck, it's only $10, go to this show if it comes to your town!