Over the Weekend: Royal Bangs at Hailey's Club

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Royal Bangs, Goldilocks and The Rock and Land Animals
January 14, 2011

Better Than: The Falcons performance against the Packers on Saturday.

A small but dedicated crowd fought the cold wind and drizzle Friday night to hear Knoxville's Royal Bangs play at Hailey's Club in Denton. While the weather outside was less than accommodating, there's just something about getting in out of the rain and looking forward to a show -- all that anticipation of discovery and good times.

For their part, the Royal Bangs delivered. Their set was delightfully all over the map and could easily have converted as many strangers as fans that showed up just to see them.

Royal Bangs @ Hailey's 1/14/11 from WeDentonDoIt on Vimeo.

Before that, however, Denton acts Goldilocks and The Rock and Land Mammals had their say. It just wasn't always clear to everyone in attendance what was being said.

Goldilocks and The Rock, the latest in an ever-growing list of two-member bands, kicked things off and this writer was thrown off from the very beginning. All of the band's vocals were auto-tuned, like T-Pain. At first I thought it was part of some joke, perhaps an ironic statement of some sort. Why would a band choose that as the trademark element to their music? Where's the wink and nod?

Unfortunately, those thoughts and questions were so distracting that I missed out on a set of otherwise promising tunes. GaTR threw out some catchy stuff with hints of '80's hooks and solid-sounding indie pop, but that auto-tune...!

Land Mammals were next, and they brought their own distraction, too. They've been a popular fixture on the Denton house-show scene for a while, so much so that a fan decided to join the band's performances in drag and wander around the stage and crowd. This is great for the intimate, informal nature of the house show, but not so much in a more traditional venue, where most folks are not in on the joke. There were more than a few question marks on many faces, which distracted from otherwise endearing music.

All of that was about to be washed away in a tide of noise courtesy of the headliners.

If you had to sum up Royal Bangs set in one word, it would have to be LOUD. Or CATCHY. In their short set, Royal Bangs issued an infectious howl and screech session that referenced at least a half-dozen styles.

They opened with a punky track off their upcoming album, throwing out a dual guitar attack (with drums -- no bass, thank you), and moved on to songs like the Flaming Lips-influenced "War Bells" and the !!!-cum-Talking Heads "My Car Is Haunted," or the Ministry/Fang Island mash "1993."

Singer Ryan Shaefer moved back and forth between guitar and a dual keyboard set-up, cuing up the monster beats that drummer Chris Rusk filled in, leaving guitarist Sam Stratton to lay down the meat of each song's riff or the sometimes intricate finger work of songs like "Brainbow."

It was a solid set cut awkwardly short by a malfunctioning amp, but it was a great reminder that good music can stand on its own without tricks or distractions.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias: I'm in no position to tell someone how to run their business, but is it that hard to clean the bathrooms at least once a month?
Random Note: As of this writing, the "I Am T-Pain" iPhone app is on sale for $0.99 in the iTunes store.
By the way: Royal Bangs will return to Denton in March to perform at 35 Conferette.

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