The Earlies, The Theater Fire, Mazinga Phaser II
Broken guitar strings are expected at a rock show, what with the slashing pick attacks and whole-step note bends. But how the hell do you break a cello string with a bow? By playing hard, I guess, which is exactly what the eight-piece Earlies did before and after the string break, making the best of a star-crossed show filled with PA mishaps, earsplitting feedback and sporadic pops. The half-British, half-Texan band gave a warmer--almost Americana--sound to songs created through overseas file sharing on their debut, These Were the Earlies. Many of the recorded versions have a detached, ambient air to them, thanks to an abundance of drum machines and synthesizers, but the band has reworked them with more organic instrumentation such as percussion, trumpets, sax, piano and cello for their first North American tour. In particular, the cool electronic groove of "Morning Wonder" was cranked up live--lead singer and guitarist Brandon Carr, as he tore through the loudest section of the song, walked through the audience as if he was fed up with the polite audience and wanted to say, "Get off your chairs and rock!" Slower, prettier piano-based songs were just as captivating, but they closed the set with "Devil's Country," beating percussion and blaring horns to stomp the song into a chaotic mess before stopping and doing it all over again. Though the show was tragically short for a rare homecoming stop in Texas, nobody blamed the octet for not staying late, and Carr's explanation summed up the night: "The PA's shot and the cello string's broken."
Mazinga Phaser II's space rock with hard laptop beats and complex guitar lines made a great opening act, though effects rendered Wanz Dover's singing and Ineka's Yoko-like yelps indecipherable. However, Fort Worth's Theater Fire in the middle created an awkward juxtaposition, thanks to never-ending pops and squeals from the erratic PA, and their rustic rock sounded muddled with the occasional mandolin or guitar riff climbing out from the mix. --Jesse Hughey
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