The Constantines / Oxford Collapse - live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)

The Constantines / Oxford Collapse

live in Philadelphia (2005)

live show

The North Star Bar only boasted a crowd of about fifteen when Get Him Eat Him opened the night. Most people hadn't even left the small tables in the back of the room when the band launched into their brand of screechy guitar and fuzzy synth pop. Part of this might have been because the group only put on an average set. It might have been better if both guitars could actually be heard and if the singer wasn't so obsessed with using an array of pointless effects. If you have an entire table of gadgets in front of you, you should be able to do more than make your voice sound like a Transformer or play a couple moog-like notes.

Oxford Collapse took the stage next to a crowd of about thirty people. Guitarist Michael Pace and drummer Dan Fetherston sported cut-off jean shorts like they were extras from "Wet Hot American Summer," while bassist Adam Rizer was clad in paint-speckled jeans like he had come straight from his contracting job. The New York three-piece stomped, strutted, and shouted their way through an entertaining set. Their sound was a mix of the vulnerable bouncy pop of early Promise Ring, and the dancey art-punk of Les Savy Fav. The group was tight and energized over the course of the performance before closing out with loads of feedback and knob twisting that elicited screeches, swirls, and fuzzy explosions.

As it drew closer to the Constantines performance, the space in front of the stage slowly started to fill. The band picked up their instruments to a storm of applause and preceded to show why, as when it comes to blending post-punk's dynamic rhythms and angular guitars with traditional rock's heart and delivery, they are the best at what they do.

Their set was passionate and impressive. The clean and sharp Telecaster tone cut seamlessly into the warm and fat hollowbody, while the rhythm section flawlessly pounded out dub like hip-shakers and loud rockers, and the organ complimented it all with its haunting resonance. Singer Bryan Webb's voice was also dead on as he shifted between the gruff angst of Chuck Ragan and Tim Kasher and the gravelly warmth of Bruce Springsteen (it might be cliché, but it still holds true) and Joe Strummer.

The band played a good mix from their three releases (I don't have the EP, so I am assuming the couple songs I didn't recognize were off that). Their set included songs such as "Arizona," "Young Offenders," "Seven A.M.," "Hyacinth Blues," "Shine A Light," "Nighttime/Anytime (It's Alright)," "Insectivora," "Young Lions," "Scoundrel Babes," and a cover of AC/DC's "Ride On." They also rocked three new songs from their upcoming record. Webb claimed that the new album, which comes out in October, was about curling, or as he described it, "shuffleboard for the strong." One of the new songs had a country vibe while another may have contained the best groove I've ever heard in a Constantines' song.

The band was not only tight, but also vibrant. They often required audience participation (something that should be expected from a band that once thanked "hand clappers and tambourine shakers everywhere" in the liner notes to an album) and showed a genuine appreciation when they received it. They frequently smiled and exchanged excited glances with one another after a singalong or clap session had died down. It was obvious they were having a good time (something many bands seem to forget how to do) and the fact that they played two encores only lent credence to the fact.

The Constantines alone deserve a ten and the Oxford Collapse were also enthralling, but Get Him Eat Him drug the show down a bit with their poor tone and mediocre stage presence.

Definitely check out this tour if you get a chance.