"We would just like to thank RX Bandits and Portugal. The Man for having us on tour." -- words of Maps & Atlases vocalist Dave Davison. Friday was the first day of August, pretty much meaning school is starting to creep up on us again. Nothing was better than taking the train to the best city in the world, and spending your night seeing Rx Bandits, Portugal. The Man and Maps & Atlases. All of this occurred under the roof of the Highline Ballroom.
Maps & Atlases were to open on this fine date. Looking around the venue, not many fans were there to see them, let alone pay attention to their act. However, I'm a pretty big fan of these guys, watching both Dave Davison and guitarist Erin Elders finger-tap each song, somewhat like the Dragonforce of indie rock. Such songs such as "The Most Trustworthy Tin Cans" highlighted the unique finger-tapping / cow bell hits from the guys. Also, the band performed new songs from their new EP, You and Me and the Mountain, such as the title track and "Artichokes." From a spectator's stance near me, you can tell their was some movement building around, which set the stage for Portugal. The Man.
When I first saw these lanky figures walk up on stage, I thought the vocalist was insane for wearing a jacket in 80 degree weather. Back in 2006, I got to see them and wasn't really impressed with them -- nor on record, for that matter. But this time around, it was quite different. They opened the set with them asking that all the lights in the club were turned off and then performing the 2006 hit "A.K.A. M80 the Wolf." The band themselves brought a whole different atmosphere to the venue and to the music to be heard after them. At one point, John Gourley announced that they would be performing a new song, "And I." I was pretty stoked being that maybe this could shed some light on the upcoming release, Censored Colors, slated for release later this month. But probably the best moment of their set was during their performance of "The Devil." A nice pit of fans pushing each other broke out. What initially looked stupid turned out to set the tone for the rest of the night.
The venue became all bunched up. People were all over the balcony above and the floor was jam-packed. I became separated during the show from my friends. The main event. Chants broke out: "RX B, RX B, RX B" or "Bandits!! Bandits!!" Everyone finally got what has been proclaimed one of the best live bands around. Rx Bandits took the stage performing "In Her Drawer." Between the huge bangs on percussion from Tsagakis to the smooth trombone of Chris Sheets, the venue was really moving. One of the most interesting things about Rx Bandits is how their last release (...And the Battle Begun) was recorded live. As heard in "Apparition," the soft vocals from Matt Embree as well as Steve Choi adding on guitar really brought out how talented this band is. Following that was the highly talked about "new song" those damn Bandits have been playing. It's making me even more excited for their next release.
The set list mainly contained a well-balanced performance of older songs as well as new songs. From "1980" to "Dinna-Dawg (And the Inevitable Onset of Lunacy)," every fan could have been pleased with the set. Rx Bandits wound up concluding the set with an extended version of "Only for the Night." The song was really brought out by the little percussion duel between Tsagakis and Sheets. However, the fans wanted more. Matt Embree came out talking about how his mother was from New York before she moved out west. They opened up the encore with "Overcome (The Recapitulation)." Fans were piling onto each other and drunk fans were on stage. The general mood of the crowd was very moving. Pits started to break out more and more. By the last song, "Decresendo," a huge pit of both genders broke out. Not to hurt each other -- just everyone enjoying the music and feeling the whole atmosphere of the venue.
This concert was probably one of the best I've been to. Every band was very polished and looked very dedicated to their sets. The crowd was awesome as well. Honestly, Rx Bandits are probably the best live band I've ever seen. I don't think they'll ever be topped.