Maybe Hot Rod Circuit didn't bring any proper touring partners on their farewell tour because they've spent their career watching their friends' bands either blow up or break up. Really, I guess it makes sense that there were few to no options left. Instead, their New York City stop was left to be supported by two somewhat oddball openers...you know, considering.
Gay Blades was first, and their frontman, Clark Westfield immediately announced they were playing a 45-minute set (it ended up being about 47). A few groans seemed to emit from the crowd, who had only a singer/guitarist and drummer on stage to entertain them. Westfield's mere personality drove the live show, however, and seemed to get the audience interested. This wouldn't have been a point of contention if their songs were actually good; instead, Gay Blades put forth boring indie pop/rock, another pity made by the fact that Westfield's voice was quite good, dabbling in both yelling and screaming fits, hushed, soothing whispers and nasal caws, the last á la John K. Samson. The alt-country strum opening their second offering was promising, but again, the song itself was merely tepid. Crowd participation was strongly and aggressively encouraged, however, by Westfield, who demanded clapping in rhythm to many of the band's songs and even sauntered out into the audience at one point and began embracing and grabbing people, screaming the lyrical end by his lonesome. One unintentionally funny moment came during this scene when Westfield found a person, likely attending the show primarily for Crime in Stereo, wearing Guns Up! memorabilia. Westfield found this "phrase" particularly amusing, assumingly having never heard of the now-defunct No Warning worshippers from Merrimack Valley, and began urging everyone to shout the band's namesake, which they did so. Highlights from Westfield also included a snot rocket and completely stopping one song to directly address a very audible, singing-along female ("You are not good at this. I am good at this.").
Crime in Stereo was due next and ready to go in a tidy 15 minutes. The band had a few sporadic fans in attendance, but little energy was returned until the opening chords and lines of "Sudan" were delivered. Only modest approval was given for the band's opening salvo, which was the beginning trio of tracks off their recent release, Is Dead. The band themselves sounded pretty good, though vocalist Kristian Hallbert was visibly straining to hit his falsetto notes in songs like "XXXX (The First 1000 Years of Solitude)" and "Animal Pharm." You can't blame him, though -- it's hard to imagine anyone trying to transition from raspy screaming to easy-going high pitches on a moment's notice. You've all heard yourself after losing your voice at a show, after all. But when the band was able to capture the disc's curious atmospheres and on-a-dime changes, it was impressive, and frustrating that they barely even lured their own fans into things with their more adventurous material (the two-minute masterpiece "Almost Ghostless / Above the Gathering Oceans"; the incredibly well-constructed "Small Skeletal"). Granted, there was little hesitation for the smart uptempo songs from 2006's The Troubled Stateside; the band even capped off the set with what's still their longest song to date, the desperate, haunting "I, Stateside." Overall though, they played quite well and hopefully piqued interest from stodgy Hot Rod Circuit fans.
Set list (8:07-8:46):
- XXXX (The First 1000 Years of Solitude)
- Third Atlantic
- ...But You Are Vast
- Almost Ghostless / Above the Gathering Oceans
- Animal Pharm
- Bicycles for Afghanistan
- Small Skeletal
- I, Stateside
Hot Rod Circuit then ambled up on stage in about a half-hour's time to give New York City fans one final set. Now, I've never LOVED Hot Rod Circuit, but I've enjoyed their tunes for years, and their set list here was no exception, as it was a pretty well-flowing and catalog-spanning one. The band spent the main set list playing pieces from their albums in chronological order, which was pretty neat and orderly; it was also funny how much more of that later-era twang snaked in for the second half of the set.
They nailed every note, too; Andy Jackson's voice was identical to his studio efforts and each band member laid down their respective riffs meticulously and carefully. I did miss Casey Prestwood's usual stage antics; instead of doing his leg splits and wild theatrics, he sat quietly at his keyboard or modestly stood and played his guitar.
Half the set the crowd stood rather politely and sung along -- in fact, several males up front looked lost and clueless, but the bro-mosh took up much of the floor for more familiar material like "The Pharmacist" and "Flight 89 (North American)." The fans, at least at some
points, looked excited to give their heroes a warm goodbye.
The band returned after an hour or so for another six songs, a fairly generous encore in all.
As much as I would've loved to hear "Inhabit," "Knees" and "Save You," Hot Rod Circuit played a nice and long set list that packed in the (bong?) hits and more obscure numbers -- including "Try & Understand," taken from the Japan release of Reality's Coming Through
; no one seemed to know it, of course. Great show, and so long, Hot Rod -- here's to a glut of miserable, watered down trash likely trying to take your place in the coming years to total failure.
- Very Best friend
- Weak Warm
- Radio Song
- The Power of the Vitamins
- Flight 89 (North American)
- You Kill Me
- The Pharmacist
- At Nature's Mercy
- Let's Go Home
- The Best You Ever Knew
- Try & Understand
- U.S. Royalty
- What We Believe In
- High Tech Lip Gloss
- Irish Car Bomb