Grouplove and Portugal. the Man With STRFKR South Side Ballroom, Dallas Saturday, August 30, 2014
If there's one thing Dallas/Fort Worth does right, it's long weekends. Venues, cities, promoters, party throwers and citizens -- they all tend to seize on the idea and go all-out to throw the wildest shows of the year. Just look at what this weekend had: a festival in Fort Worth featuring Psych-Rockers; a festival in the Zouk parking lot that featured a James Franco prank; Good Luck Karaoke terrorizing Three Links; a local promoter getting indulgent with a anniversary party; and roughly 2,475 DJ nights.
I managed to miss all of these in favor of a night of corporate synergy at the Gilley's complex where the folks behind marketing the Honda Civic as the "Hip" thing to young consumers put together a show featuring the dance rockers STRFKR, the radio-made wonders of Grouplove and the band your weed guy fucking loves, Portugal. the Man.
Let me preface all this by saying, that Grouplove does the theme song for Netflix's new animated show Bojack Horseman, and it's a fantastic show and you should all go watch it. Now, let me follow that up by saying that the synergistic move of performing a theme song for a show that's on the streaming service that almost everyone uses perfectly sums up Grouplove, a band so unbelievably focus grouped and marketed that of course the show featuring them was moved from the side room at the Gilley's complex to the main room, South Side Ballroom.
So yes. Every undergrad/teenager/hip twenty-something/cool mom crowded into the ballroom and bought merchandise like the world was ending. Meanwhile, on stage, Grouplove tried everything from aping the Pixies to performing the single worst cover of "Drunk in Love" possible. Let me say this: Beyonc é would not be amused by this toothless cover that a Warner executive told you to perform because "Hey, people like this song, and people will talk about you covering it." In fact, Queen Bey would be annoyed you tried to step to her level and she'd point out that you as a group trying to cover the song but being afraid to touch Jay-Z's verses is WEAK AS HELL.
Other things about Grouplove that are weak as hell:
1) Trying to sound like the Pixies despite not having Frank Black in the group.
2) "Shredding" on an acoustic guitar.
3) Singer Hannah Hooper being the being the 8,362,627th person to rip off Daryl Hannah's aesthetic from Blade Runner.
4) This fucking shirt, which is so beyond offensive that this whole review could have been me going on and on about cultural appropriation for 2,000 words.
On the complete other side of the coin, Portugal. the Man were so inoffensive and such great musicians that they felt like the best band in the world by comparison.
Yes, the band opened up with a Pink Floyd cover, but that's what they do. They're the band for people who are intrigued about the concept of drugs but are afraid to actually do drugs. This isn't a bad thing. Drugs aren't all they're cracked up to be, and if you can get the experience of drugs via riffy rock 'n' roll, laser shows, stage smoke and intricate animation, you might as well go for it; you're gonna drive home a lot safer.
That said the band is a lot of fun. They ignore the traditional "song-break-song-banter-song-break" format for medley driven work where they segue in and out of tracks and pepper them with covers, including a version of the Always Sunny In Philadelphia anthem "Dayman" and Oasis' "Don't Look Back in Anger" throughout the set. It's very Greatful Dead, a band we compared them to in our preview because of their devoted fanbase, and a band the group obviously admires.
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It's interesting to experience live and much more of a spectacle than most performances. It's not groundbreaking in any way, but it's good and even interesting, and that's why the crowd (which seemed to completely change over between bands) around me in the ballroom was filled with such a diverse selection of people. Next to me dancing throughout the set was a child in a new concert T-shirt, up way past his bedtime dancing throughout the set with eyes as wide as possible while his father beamed with pride. Might as well call them Portugal. The Family Approved Man.
In the end the performance was so well done it pulled me right out of my Grouplove-induced bad mood and I actually started to enjoy myself. In other words seeing Portugal. the Man after Grouplove is like leaving Long John Silvers to eat at the Red Lobster: You don't really feel great about it, and it's not the seafood you want, but damn if the cheddar biscuits don't improve the hell out of the experience.
From the notebook:
Hey venues, stop charging $4 for water. There were multiple instances of concert goers over heating from the mass of humanity induced humidity, and none of these people had easy access to water because the venue had to get every single penny they could from them.