Nothing could quite prepare for me the unfortunate surprise that would taint my first time seeing the Rx Bandits post-Battle, but judging from the destruction I should be trying some for wartime crimes. Anyway...
The sweater-vested frontman of Chicago/Idaho-based outfit Nurses walked onto the stage at about 8:21 and introduced himself as Johnny Cash. After a few notes (none of which were Cash's), the rest of the members sauntered on stage to help properly begin a 27-minute set of super pensive, bizarre indie rock with a couple songs that reminded me of a more tempered version of the pAper chAse. While my attention drifted a bit here and there, as Nurses weren't nearly as violent and cacophonous as their similar-sounding act, it was pretty cool and the audience was surprisingly receptive. One particularly cartoony number included weird falsetto vocals and a slide whistler who attempted to convert the crowd to a chorus by way of conduction.
Men, Women, & Children were due next and I was set to have the best and worst time of my life. It turns out it was merely mediocre. The band's newer songs seem interestingly less ironic, and as a whole the set came off that way too; aside from Todd Weinstock's usual Jimi Hendrix bandana tied to his guitar, which should barely even count, there were no ironic fashions on stage. Sure, the band were selling bubbles at their merch table (some of which were blown during the set) and flashing neon lights adorned everything but the faux-hipster quotient was at a refreshing low. The antics of a terribly drunken, balding and heavyset older fellow (mid-40s at best) in the crowd who resembled Milton from "Office Space" began to grow tired during the set, going from fun and hilarious to plain creepy. After activity that bordered on groping females a third his age, he was promptly escorted out and the set became mildly more enjoyable -- if nothing else, more comfortable. The band played crowd favorites like "Monkey Monkey Men" and that "Vowels" song among others for 41 minutes and then exited.
A fair portion of the audience up front then dissipated to reveal the Rx Bandits fanbase...which largely consisted of brodudes. Huh? Maybe the band's half-decade stint on Drive-Thru is finally producing typified results? Maybe the Sublime comparisons of yesteryear have mallrats thinking that RXB are enrolled in Slightly Stoopid's brew crew? The general obnoxiousness that rose up into the air (and not just the pot smoke) definitely cast a dim shadow over the set, notably when a fellow near me nearly started a physical fight with me over body-to-stage proximity. Seconds later he was chanting the chorus to "Overcome (The Recapitulation)": "...what we need right now is lo-ove!" The ironing was delicious.
This isn't to criticize the band itself. The Rx Bandits provided a fluid, barely interrupted set of songs that drew from their last three full-lengths surprisingly evenly, interconnected by cool, relaxed jam sessions that provided pleasant surprises when the opening notes of a familiar favorite were carefully integrated. Including the encore, they lasted a whopping hour and a half -- no complaints there. You couldn't wipe the smile off Matt Embree's face with a .45; not that it was a difficult task, but he engaged the crowd with practically every lyric and seemed to be having quite some fun himself. It was an odd view to only have one brass member taking up the duty for the team, but lone trombonist Chris Sheets seemed to hold it down. Obviously, the audience was less responsive for cuts from Progress than the ones for the following two albums, but you could certainly hear a chorus of sing-alongs for those songs.
Slight criticisms might come towards the band's song choice and order. Some of the most dynamic, fierce songs on The Resignation ("Prophetic," "Newsstand Rock (Exposition)") were absent from the set, and that's a pity as they're some of the band's best work -- that goes for "Never Slept So Soundly," too. Additionally, while I should be appreciative to hear "Infection" at all, it would've made a wonderful closer period -- instead, it was the pre-tease to the encore, which the band ended with "To Our Unborn Daughters"...hardly a terrible song, but terribly hardy for a show-closer.
So the Rx Bandits' NYC stop in a fairly large club here definitely had its ups and downs. While I'm no longer quite foaming at the mouth to see them again, an explosive new album or even EP could change that.
Set list (10:22-11:53):
- Consequential Apathy
- In Her Drawer
- Taking Chase as the Serpent Slithers
- ...And the Battle Begun
- Dinna-Dawg (The Inevitable Onset of Lunacy)
- All the Time
- Only for the Night
- Infection Encore:
- Overcome (The Recapitulation)
- Sell You Beautiful
- To Our Unborn Daughters