Tiger Army / The Unseen - live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Tiger Army / The Unseen

live in Philadelphia (2008)

live show

Three is a magic number / Yes it is, it's a magic number. / Somewhere in the ancient, mystic trinity / You get three as a magic number.

Two things I hate: going to shows alone and drinking alone, especially since the former tends to encourage the latter. Luckily, when I hit up the Trocadero May 17 to see Tiger Army, the Unseen and War Tapes, my blues were quickly cured thanks to a trifecta of rock.

Three-band bills seem ideal to me -- you take a solid headliner and throw in two bands that complement that act's style. Based on sound, I could never see gloomy new wave-y act War Tapes touring with the skull-splittin' street punks in the Unseen, but plug Tiger Army's dark psychobilly into the mix, and suddenly the whole gosh dang show makes sense.

War Tapes kicked off the night with a set of gothic-tinged ditties. Atmospheric like the Cure with a bit of an Interpol fetish, War Tapes oscillated between quick rockers and sexy slow jams. The crowd dug it either way, as applause was constant. Black-clad frontman Neil Popkin was intense and off-kilter, getting up in concertgoers' faces, occasionally climbing gear for no particular reason and constantly almost barreling into bandmates Becca Popkin and Matt Bennett.

Second up was the Unseen. I'm not exactly the biggest Unseen fan, but the band's nearly boundless energy and positive vibe made me rethink this view. Frontman Mark Unseen was a blur on stage and a charmer on the mic. His best trick, though, was a simple one: standing on the floor, face to face with his fans and sharing the vocals. More often than not, Mark was eye level with the crowd, who flipped shit over just about every Unseen tune played. It didn't matter if it was an old song like "Social Security" (Lower Class Crucifixion, 1997) or a newer one like "Break Away" (Internal Salvation, 2007). Even a punked up cover of Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" inspired circle pit action.

With bassist Geoff Kresge back in tow, an eager Tiger Army closed out the night with a respectable set that mixed old and new. There was plenty of love shown for last year's new wave-leaning psychobilly masterpiece Music from Regions Beyond, with crowd favorites like "Cupid's Victim" and "F.T.W." thrown in to boot. The older material sounds even better live than recorded, as time has allowed the band to rework its songs a bit. "Never Die," off of the self-titled album, rocks infinitely harder live in 2008 than it did on record in 1999.

But while the band's set was energetic -- Kresge in particular beat his standup bass mercilessly -- it seemed to cut short around the 50-minute mark. Frontman/guitarist Nick 13 had a brace on his left wrist, so it's possible he didn't want to hurt himself further. It would have been nice to hear more Regions Beyond tunes, but not if it caused Nick 13's hand to explode.

It was still a good set, though. Same goes for the Unseen and War Tapes. You could tell the bands not only dug playing, but playing with each other, as everyone gave and received shout-outs all night long.