Getting this out of the way now: The RX Bandits are one of my favorite bands. Ever.
With that disclaimer comes this overview of their new Mash Down Babylon Records released DVD, simply titled Live Vol. 1. For many fans, this has been a long time coming, especially after the debacle with the early pressings of The Resignation's bonus DVD, where the audio and video weren't synced properly. Rumor has it that Drive-Thru was dragging their feet on releasing/getting ready a DVD for them, so Matt decided to go and release it on his record label. However it happened, I'm glad it did, as it documents the band at a wonderful point in their history, prior to the release of their masterpiece, The Resignation, in the height of the political unrest surrounding the war in Iraq and other issues.
It comes with two shows, one from the "War is Worthless" benefits they helped with, and the other isn't a show per say, but a conglomeration of bootlegs and acoustic tracks. There is also a slideshow contained herein.
The first show is pretty much amazing. This is Matt Embree and folks pre-lumberjack beard and at the beginning of the shaggy hair. If you've never seen them, they are one of the tightest live bands I've seen, and keep the music going all the time. Chris pounds the skins, adding in fills and segues, keeping the music up. The audio quality is just plain amazing. It sounds perfect, and sometimes you have to double check their lips to make sure they didn't overdub this in the studio. The video quality is mixed, although the style is very fitting for the Bandits. You won't see any perfect, clean video here, it's kind of grainy and always jerky, but it fits them so well. You're experiencing the band live when you're watching this show, on stage with them, with energy and intensity that I can only imagine one would feel backstage translated into camera motions and angles. It's a great document of the band.
The second agglomeration of tracks starts off with an amazing performance of Decrescendo. The audio is spot-on, providing an amazing track, but the video quality could use some diversity. It's comprised of a long show with all the band members on stage, and you can barely make them out. however, the amazing audio quality makes up for it. The second track is Prophetic, which has the opposite problem. Very interesting camera work, with fairly poor audio. It's not terrible, but it doesn't match up with the rest of the DVD thus far. These are the two stand out tracks for odd quality, and the rest is impeccable. An amazing special for us fans is the very jamaica-ska sounding rendition of Nugget, complete with acoustic guitar accompaniment. Also on here is a very early live performance of Infection. I think at this point you get the point, these are some really cool rarities, and a must have for fans.
The best feature on here, for me at least, are the acoustic/Salvation Army benefit tracks. One thing that is rarely mentioned about the RXB is Matt's amazing vocal abilities and melodic genius. These clips highlight (in high quality) the perfect marriage between his voice and the music he plays. It's hard to imagine that one man with a single guitar is producing the sounds, but it's there in front of you. Then add Joseph and Chris (although it may not be him on drums, now that I double check it) into the mix with bass and drums, and you get a soulful representation of some already amazing songs.
The slideshow is just that, a slideshow of pictures set to music. Not that wonderful, but interesting to play in a window on your computer while you're doing some work (or writing a review!). All in all, this DVD is really great. It's a testament to a wonderful band who play some amazing music. Obviously, this caters more directly to their existing fans, but no newcomer would be disappointed by what they see on here, unlike many live CDs or DVDs.