Texas Is the Reason is responsible for the recording of one my all-time favorite EPs, and yet it was something the band casually refers to as their demo. To actually get to see these songs reproduced live, over a decade after the fact, was an opportunity I couldn't pass up, even if it was a mere two to three songs I was most excited about. And yeah, I may as well admit Do You Know Who You Are? was more than a solid note for the band's career to close with, so filling out the set with it would be an overall treat.
A friend of the band, Ian Love, opened the show. The Rival Schools guitarist played a different sort of fare than that band, a singer/songwriter anchored blend of wandering ambience, folk tinges and the occasional Saddle Creek twang, not unlike Owen. He had three band members to back him up: a bassist, keyboardist / occasional guitarist, and pianist/keyboardist, and they all did their part, adding lush, atmospheric touches to Love's sweet, endearing vocals. He/they played 10 not-too-long songs, and then it was time to figure out just who we were.
Irving Plaza hangs a large projector screen in front of the stage to play strange, trippy, manipulated videos on while bands set up in between sets. Upon Texas Is the Reason's setup completion, a slideshow of pictures began to play on the screen while the gentle twinkle of the studio version of "Do You Know Who You Are?" came over the PA. The crowd erupted in immediate applause viewing the decade-old photos, which concluded with a simple band logo. The screen rose, and Norm Arenas, Chris Daly, Garret Klahn and Scott Winegard walked onto the stage smiling and taking hold of their respective instruments.
With the ending chords of "Do You Know Who You Are?" ringing, the band busted into "Back and to the Left," and the show was officially on the road. Everything just about clicked; it didn't seem like the band missed a note until a somewhat sloppy transition in "Antique" -- and that was during the encore. Likely thanks to all the time spent in New Rising Sons and Solea, Klahn's voice didn't sound a bit rusty, reproducing his signature nasal tone as heard on the band's small number of releases. He was also genuinely speechless; he tried to offer statements of gratitude at several points, but was usually stumped for words. The first time, early on in the set, Klahn spoke into the mic "This is..." and simply stopped. "...Awesome!" finished an audience member. Clapping and acknowledging laughter appropriately ensued.
One curious moment was the band's cover; I'm not sure if most people who attended the show still know what it is. Labeled "ROCK N ROLL [sic]" on the set list, the song literally resulted in one audience member audibly yelling "What band was that?," another adding "We want to like what you like!" Neither Klahn nor the rest of the band answered, even though the questions were so clearly spoken they had to have heard them.
Of the two or so "new" songs given, which the band wrote 10 years ago, the first was most memorable. It was certainly a sensible progression from Do You Know Who You Are?, but also featured beautiful/heavy verses á la Sunny Day Real Estate and what sounded like would be a big, great chorus -- that is, if it was repeated at all, which it wasn't. It also made it seem like the band was really finding its proper footing in dynamics, which makes it all the more a pity they broke up without even managing to stay together for a second LP.
What seemed to be most pleasing is how happy Klahn looked, with Daly and Winegard seemingly enjoying themselves too. Arenas looked predictably content, hopping up and down and getting into the occasional excited groove. I certainly wouldn't say he looked to be hating it.
Set list (according to the paper, mostly accurate I believe; one of these is "There's No Way I Can Talk Myself Out of This One"):
- Do You Know Who You Are? [played over PA]
- Back and to the Left
- Dressing Cold -----
- Johnny on the Spot -----
- "ELGD" [?]
- If It's Here When We Get Back It's Ours -----
- Nickel Wound
- Magic Bullet Theory -----
- "DRINKING" [?]
- Something to Forget -----
- "RAFAEL" [?] -----
- The Day's Refrain
- "ROCK N ROLL" [cover] -----
- A Jack with One Eye -----
- Blue Boy
Photo credit: This dude.