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Over The Weekend: HEALTH, Times New Viking at The Lounge on Elm Street

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HEALTH, Times New Viking
The Lounge on Elm Street
November 6, 2009

Better than: a visit to the free clinic.

Even the bands noticed it: Something was just off about The Lounge on Elm Street on Friday night.

"There's kind of a weird vibe in here," Times New Viking drummer/vocalist Adam Elliott said, somewhat miffed, addressing the crowd just before his band launched into its set.

Blame, first and foremost, the crowd size, which could be summed up in a single word: meager.

At its peak, the room topped out at maybe 70 audience members--quite the shame, too, given amount of combined buzz the two top names on this bill, Times New Viking and HEALTH, were riding heading into the Friday night show. Thankfully, neither band's performance suffered from it.

Perhaps they were content to simply use the Friday night gig as a warm-up for their final destinations of the weekend: Austin's Fun Fun Fun Fest. Regardless, the fact that this night was a rather "mellow" one compared to most performances from these rather high-energy acts--or so HEALTH guitarist/vocalist Jake Duzsik said quite disparagingly at the bar after the show--the band's energies never faltered.

It was quite dazzling, actually, watching TNV's Elliott's arms flail and spin across his drum kit as he snidely sang the brand's bratty vocals simultaneously. Add to that visual the impressive complements of keyboardist Beth Murphy's organ flourishes and guitarist Jared Phillips' constant riffing and it made for quite the display, and a much more melodic one than displayed on record.

But if TNV dazzled, HEALTH floored its slightly larger and more captivated audience. Through 45 minutes of performance and, surprisingly enough, an encore as well, the band thrashed about the stage, offering up its well-oiled live show, which only seemed to pause when the band members needed a breather. And those were well-deserved: With one song bleeding into another, the band's purposefully disjointed, yet technically cohesive, industrial- and dance-influenced noise rock sound came across with a baffling intensity, one propelled even further by the band members' vibrant individual performances. Despite a sound that requires constant tweaking--even with a relatively standard basic instrumentation, floor pedals and knob tweaks were the name of the game here--even the fluidity of the band's on-the-fly adjustments of its equipment impressed. And never were the band's awe-inspiring capabilties more clear than when it ripped off a feverish rendition of "Die Slow," a clear and legitimate contender for national song of the year.

Indeed, the crowd may have disappointed at The Lounge on Friday night. But nothing
about the bands did.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias: I'd seen HEALTH live once before and was just as blown away at that performance as I was at this one. So I wasn't exactly surpsied at how impressed I was there. But Times New Viking? That band's never really caught my interest on record. So I was a little surprised to hear melodies I hadn't before in the band's live sound.

By The Way: It was an all-ages show on Friday, which apparently also meant an early start to the night. You can imagine my disappointment after I'd arrived shortly after 10 p.m. only to find out that Teenage Cool Kids' set had started nearly two hours earlier.

Random Note: The Lounge may have its liquor license back, but the service at the bar still sucks pretty hard...

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