With their smooth soundscapes, as tasteful and well-tended as a Japanese garden, Shanghai 5 seems like a band comfortable in the background. After all, their normal haunts are lounge and jazz venues. Their sound is a pretty fixture that regularly adorns sophisticated evenings at Sambuca and the Dallas Museum of Art, where their audiences are mostly polite if a wee bit disinterested. So it was jarring to see this local quintet in the Knox-Henderson Apple Store last Friday afternoon--unavoidable, a little shy and more than a bit out of place. The unconventional in-store also served as a kind of tech demonstration; between original songs from the group's new album, Under the Tent, keyboardist and programmer Reid Robinson delivered what were clearly off-the-cuff descriptions about the computer program Reason, which he uses via his PowerBook for various instrumentals and vocals during live shows. This wasn't the easiest gig in town--during the band's first song, the Apple Store's house music played simultaneously, and always there was the patter of salespeople and somewhat baffled customers to contend with. But vocalist Amy Curnow still charmed the confused crowd with lovely, pristine vocals, even if the lyrics were mundane, and solos from guitarist Bill Longhorse (of Mr. Pink) shook up any sluggish afternoon monotony. The band surely cut loose more that night at Double Wide, where its packed CD release included naughty burlesque dancers. But then, that show probably wasn't interrupted by an old man in knee socks sauntering right up to the band midsong and peering at the group's computer as if to ask, "Now what in the hell are you doing with that thing?" For a band like Shanghai 5, that's punk rock.
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