Parking in Park Slope is an apparent pain in the ass on Friday nights. When I'd last attended Brooklyn venue Southpaw, it was a warm autumn Saturday night in 2007 and open spots were speckled across 5th Ave. But here, when we were in a rush--parallel lines of bumper to bumper. That and traffic forced myself and my +1 to miss 20 minutes of This Town Needs Guns' 50-minute set. So, I suppose it wasn't a total loss, but it'd have been nice to see the UK band's entire set, as this was their first U.S. tour--and probably their only NY show for some time to come.
Once we entered the venue's opening corridor, the front doors were closed but through it you could hear a staggering number of people yelling in unison to the anthemic "If I Sit Still, Maybe I'll Make It Out of Here." I was floored--this sounded like This Town Needs Guns drew a big, big crowd. So we went in and, sure enough, there had to have been at least 50 kids packing out the floor and watching attentively or dancing and shouting along. I don't know if it was word-of-mouth or great marketing but they had quite the audience to play to. Despite missing those first 20 minutes, they played some of my favorites during the set's second half--namely "Pig" and "Gibbon," plus I got to hear the understated "Rabbit," frenetic older track "26 Is Dancier Than 4" and a new song--the last of which featured some insanely technical guitar work on Tim Collis' part while retaining that emotional overcurrent that keeps TTNG's songs so human and heartaching. Collis didn't move around much, but he didn't have to--his fingers flew across the fretboard for pretty much every one of the band's mathy, noodly floaters. Frontman Stuart Smith had an engaging enough and professional presence--when he wasn't bound by his own guitar, the free-standing vocalist limped and swayed to the beat, arms and fingers flailing in controlled directions. The Brits made friendly small talk in between songs--bassist Dan Adams inquired where he could get a pastrami sandwich (his answer should've been "anywhere"). Overall, they totally nailed it. It helps when you write great songs to begin with, but it was a fantastic, truly engaging performance all around.
The venue really seemed to clear out after that, which was unfortunate since Native put on a solid, intense and no-bullshit set of grinding, finger-tapping post-hardcore--they have a bit of a light thing going but it really just added an appropriately eerie atmosphere. I was surprised they played last, as TTNG clearly seemed to have the bigger draw (and longer set). But they were late, so that may have contributed. The Indiana quartet normally play five songs, vocalist/bassist Bobby Markos mentioned, but added an extra here, perhaps for their headliner status. I was fairly into it, though not totally familiar as I haven't yet heard their most recent album, Wrestling Moves--only their solid '08 EP, We Delete; Erase. By the end of their set, Markos invited the crowd up on the stage to howl the finishing lines--so a bunch of dudes hopped up and surrounded Markos (solely on his right side, for some reason) and did so, though some showed enthusiasm with mere head-bobbing.
It seems like TTNG are being treated like rock stars on this tour--after the set, the guys could be seen signing scores of posters and snapping photos with fans; Smith, to his own seeming bemusement, also spoke of crowd-surfing in Boston. All this struck me a little strange, being that I had their fanbase pegged as slightly pretentious American Football fans who don't really go for the whole autograph/picture-taking-with-the-band thing. Interesting how wrong that seemed to be. But hey, their album was pretty awesome, so good on them, for real.
Two-band shows are not common here at all, and although this didn't have an opener I was content to miss, which in turn caused me to miss a chunk of a band I really cared about, it was still a pretty slick and concise show.