Better than: sitting around the house listening to Wilco, wishing they’d really play The Cavern.
Things got started early last night at the Granada. Apparently too early for me as I missed what I was told was a good set by Mansions. I had even done my homework and checked out the Kentucky band's myspace page and was intrigued by the songs available there, especially "The Worst Part" which starts off with the ever pleasant "Fuck you and your goddamn scene." Hopefully Mansions will come back soon, not as an opener.
I did catch the majority of the second act on this crowded bill. Hailing from Tennessee, Paper Rival was alt-country of an interesting Radiohead variety. Singer Jake Rolleston was sufficiently overwrought to warrant such comparisons as he moaned and cavorted throughout the band's brief set. There's something intriguing happening with Paper Rival, but I'm unsure if these guys know what to do with it.
Judging by the applause that greeted the local quintet known as The New Frontiers, it was obvious whom the majority of the crowd had come to see. Playing a handful of gems from the recently issued Mending CD, a cool Gillian Welch cover and a great new song, The New Frontiers proved that it is certainly a band worth watching. Singer Nathan Pettijohn looks like a guy who got beat up a lot in high school. Frail, pale and definitely undernourished, it's a wonder he can deliver heartfelt numbers as "Black Lung" with as much gusto as he did last night. The band's grandiose sound could be considered a conscious effort to address Pettijohn's meek presence. In any case, when everything locks in place, which is about 90% of the time, The New Frontiers are the real deal. Alt-country of a symphonic variety, several songs are so packed with hooks and textures, it's a feat in itself that everything doesn't collapse in a heap of pretension. When the band exited, so did over half of the crowd.
Smart move as it turns out as headliner The Honorary Title was definitely a band not worth hanging around for. Lead man Jarrod Gorbel is as cute as the dickens (and several adoring fans let him know as much as soon as Gorbel walked on stage), but there's little substance to his tales of romantic woe. Sounding surprisingly like Peter Murphy, Gorbel's impressive baritone couldn't overcome the slacker nature of his own songs. Dreary and distraught, each song sounded like it belonged on the soundtrack to a teen drama on the WB. About mid-set, I could feel my bed a-calling.
Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: I've always loved the Granada's policy of sticking to a time schedule, even if such prevented me from seeing Mansions. Look, fact is that I'm old and getting out of a show at 11:30 p.m. is just fine by me (and my liver).
Random Note: Where did all the women come from? Hats off to The New Frontiers for being able to bring out the ladies. Over half the crowd was made up of females of the decidedly attractive variety, most of whom knew the words to all of the band's songs, even the new one!
By the way: Between sets last night, folks at The Granada showed some live footage of The Black Keys. Can you say overrated? I think I would have rather stared at a blank screen. How come when longhaired white boys tackle the blues, it is somehow considered revelatory? The bald guy standing next to me said it best, "It takes a special players to pull off being a duo and these guys ain't it." --Darryl Smyers