Rx Bandits/The Builders and the Butchers - live in New York (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Rx Bandits / The Builders and the Butchers

live in New York (2010)

live show

Zechs Marquise were full tilt into their set when my cousin and I arrived. The four-piece jammed their way through lightly proggy instrumental rock songs that didn't sound far off what the headliners resemble when they get a little overtly wanky and self-indulgent. They were far from awful, but the last song went about eight minutes and largely repeated the same refrain ad nauseam. Maybe that's what they call a hook in that style. Two of these dudes are actually brothers of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and it wasn't remotely surprising; one guy looked like he just stumbled out of an At the Drive-In circa in/CASINO/OUT photo shoot and it was easy to spot the mild Mars Volta-esque sprinkles.

Between the wealth of Decemberists comparisons they've received and the kinship with Brand New they may have developed (I'm sure more tours beyond the recent leg they did will surface, as does many of BN's comrades as of late), I was mildly looking forward to seeing what the Builders and the Butchers had in store with their purported brand of folk rock. What the relatively raucous, energetic outfit did instead actually reminded me more of Murder by Death before that band went all Cash crazy: a singer/guitarist (Ryan Solle) sneering shaky, upper register-leaning lyrics about hell, the devil and whiskey, with a certain pensiveness about the whole band's procedure, but with dual percussion, too. They had that rustic feel to them without it being forced and a sound you could easily cling to on first listen. They involved the crowd with sporadic clap-alongs (which the audience often obliged) and Solle threw out an assortment of percussion instruments to them for the closer, "When It Rains."

I didn't quite hear Solle's Colin Meloy-isms until I checked out the band's studio stuff, but it's definitely warranted. Still, live the band have something pretty unique and compelling about what they do. I wasn't rushing out to pick up their albums after this set, but it was a fun and excellent first impression I had, watching a tight and enthusiastic band warm up the crowd for an exciting set that was next.

Set list (8:50-9:27) [I've placed sample lyrics in place of where I couldn't figure out the song]:

  1. Devil Town
  2. It Came from the Sea
  3. "made ashes of our bones"
  4. "our fingertips are wires" / "did you know the whole world's rotting to the core"
  5. Down in This Hole
  6. Bottom of the Lake
  7. "try not to notice that"
  8. In the Branches
  9. When It Rains

Full album shows seem to be all the rage lately in the modern punk/emo scene and I can't complain when it involves some of my favorites released in the early aughts. Rx Bandits themselves were set to play one of their best albums, The Resignation, front to back, tonight. I do have to call them out on one thing: No "Republic"? What happened to the full album, guys? I guess 11 out of 12 ain't bad, though--just not quite what was advertised.

That being said, the overall sentiment in the crowd could be summed up well after "Sell You Beautiful," as heard shouted by one clearly inebriated youngster: "THIS IS FUCKING AWESOME!!" Oversized cover art hung triumphantly in the background while the band plowed through (most of) the album and all its jammed-out but concise interludes, just with a little bit of a raw and unbridled flair about how they played 'em (frontman Matt Embree was clearly stumbling over a lyric line here and there, but never too embarrassingly). There was even a saxophonist and trombonist to the side of the stage to ensure the album's layer of brass remained intact--and I do think it was actually Steve Borth and Chris Sheets, respectively.

Rx just seemed joyous and inspired all throughout it, even though Embree was far and away the most dynamic presence on stage. He was visibly shaken during one song (I think "Pal-Treaux"), looking like he was nearly choking up singing certain lines that must have held a lot of personal meaning ("You taste so sweet for only me / it hurts so much to lose completely"). His scraggly, scrawny figure wandered to the front of the stage during the dub-inflected "Overcome (The Recapitulation)" to wave his arm in a circular motion wildly and hype up the crowd for that consistent sing-along of it.

Overall, this was a lot of fun and the band sweetened the deal with a four-song encore, lifting the opening tracks from their other three most recent albums. The crowd was worlds better than the last time I'd seen 'em, too (read: way less bro-ey), and that probably helped.

Set list (10:00-10:59):
  1. Sell You Beautiful
  2. Prophetic
  3. Newsstand Rock (Exposition)
  4. Overcome (The Recapitulation)
  5. Never Slept So Soundly
  6. Taking Chase as the Serpent Slithers
  7. Mastering the List
  8. Falling Down the Mountain
  9. Dinna-Dawg (And the Inevitable Onset of Lunacy)
  10. Pal-Treaux
  11. Decrescendo
    Encore (11:03-11:30):
  12. 0:28 / VCG3
  13. ...And the Battle Begun
  14. My Lonesome Only Friend
  15. Bring Our Children Home or Everything Is Nothing