We Were Promised Jetpacks / Bear Hands - live in Brooklyn (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

We Were Promised Jetpacks / Bear Hands

live in Brooklyn (2010)

live show

A tidy two-band lineup for once meant the Music Hall of Williamsburg would seemingly run this shit as late as possible. So Bear Hands, originally scheduled for 9:00, didn't go on until 9:34. The crowd didn't seem to mind, as the Brooklyn locals were playing their first show in a month and had a couple followers apparently looking forward to them. They played a 36-minute set of concise, melodic indie rock songs--there was really no extra fat in what Bear Hands did. The songs ended when they wanted them to. I sensed a little bit of Clash influence on some songs here and there, though this stuff was decidedly not in the punk/hardcore spectrum despite a pedigree that includes two ex-members of In Pieces (remember them?). But it was pretty good nonetheless and it was cool to see their new-ish, oddly Good News-era Modest Mouse vibing single, "What a Drag," live.

Even at 9:00 the venue had seemed mostly empty, but the place was packed by the time Edinborough, Scotland's We Were Promised Jetpacks had taken the stage. And the crowd was fucking raucous in their response when a sound clip of some lady announcing unordered numbers played over the speakers and those four (very young) kids walked out and sauntered into the bustling, rhythmic post-rock front half of the eight-minute-long "Keeping Warm."

They played two new songs, and they were not at all indicative of the more orchestral post-rock direction on their recent EP, The Last Place You'll Look. The first was a lot more noodly in kind of a '90s emo sense (intentional or not), and, frankly, really fucking awesome (sample lyric: "Your love is a mirror"). The second found vocalist/guitarist Adam Thompson continually boasting in another character's skin "I was a writer" and "I was a painter."

Of course, all the big singles got the wildest receptions, inciting dance parties across the floor. "This song reached #1 in the UK charts," Thompson stated matter-of-factly before the band went into "Roll Up Your Sleeves." Smug bastard.

Although the enormous echo on Thompson's voice was a bit over the top, there was but one other issue I could have with their set--how devastatingly loud they were. Mr. Nugent can call me old all he wants, but this shit must have been turned up to 12. It was just unnecessarily deafening, and that was extra bothersome for a band who relies so much on a nimbleness--and not necessarily a loudness--to what they do. In fact, they actually played their songs even more frantic than on record, a sort of controlled, Dartz!-style frenzy that, while seeming to emphasize the stagnation of that disco drumbeat through nearly every song, allowed the band to cruise through the set with a raw, exuberant energy and absolute zero bullshit frills.

Despite those jarring technical issues, it was just a great performance. The wonderful thing about watching a young band with only one full-length to their name play a full set is that all those songs probably still mean something to them (more or less), and you could see it when Thompson would clench his eyes and tilt his head up a little bit while howling out every booming, anthemic lyric and obtuse metaphor. And it allowed the band's inherently melodic and friendly songs to retain a real human emotion of sorts often lost on similarly polished and repetitive bands.

Set list (10:30-11:29):

  1. Keeping Warm
  2. Ships with Holes Will Sink
  3. new song
  4. Moving Clocks Run Slow
  5. Roll Up Your Sleeves
  6. It's Thunder and It's Lightning
  7. new song?
  8. new song
  9. This Is My House, This Is My Home
  10. Quiet Little Voices
  11. Short Bursts