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Review by Steve Gisselbrecht
Orange Park squander a lot of good will tonight. There is such a good bill, and the people here are so happy to be here, that the fact that they play reasonably catchy power-pop quite well would more than buy their way into the love-fest, if they weren't such dicks about it. Alas that they start very late, bitch ungracefully about the sound from the stage ("I still can't really hear myself in the monitors" would be just fine; "The mix up here sounds like shit" is not.), and then go WAY over their set time, saying "one more song" when they really should stop and segueing from it into a long, pointless instrumental jam. Then they leave their equipment set up while they disappear backstage, with Fooled By April trying desperately to get set up in a hurry while they only have to cut two or three songs. (The most obnoxious Orange Park guitarist will later shout for Fooled By April to play another song at the end of their set, and yet somehow we all manage to avoid throttling him.) It almost seems beside the point that they play a fine set, although that jam feels much more like they've forgotten how the song ends than like any sort of planned activity.
Perhaps it's not surprising, under the circumstances, that Fooled By April seem rushed and grumpy. It is a shame, though, because it doesn't go well with their music. (I can think of plenty of bands for whom rushed and grumpy would be a huge plus; they're just not one of them.) (Fifty Foot Wave, in particular, comes to mind.) So the first few songs feel a bit off. But the love from the audience and a certain fundamental warmth in this music are insurmountable by adversity, and they soon relax into their set, while still playing all of their songs at a notably accelerated pace. They are energetic and gorgeous songs, catchy and sweet, with fantastic harmonies. They manage to restrict themselves to one Orange Park comment, when they say that they've been playing shows with them almost as long as their last song.
Four weeks into the residency, Scamper are getting punchy, and Nate's knees are getting pretty beaten up. (I don't know how he does it; if I dropped to my knees like that ONCE I wouldn't walk for a week. It looks cool, though.) It is also the case that the audience is getting quite familiar with some of these songs, which I consider a plus. "Wait Wait" is turning into a bit of a sing-along, and that's a beautiful thing. As a request for one particular audience member, they play the slowest song on the album at something like quadruple speed. It's a little weird: written as a slow song, it sounds kind of jerky and understructured played that fast, and it's less than a minute long. But it's an interesting exercise, and a fun variation. I kind of miss Brendan's goofball blather between songs, but they're trying to get things back on schedule.
Fortunately, they've saved some time for Harris, who just get better and better. They start off with kind of a dancey number, the drummer playing over a drum machine beat, then immediately do more of a screamer, then a pretty, gentle song, and then a mathy rocker. These guys have serious range. Even within a song, the hardcore screamer might have a quirky little synth line, or the mathy rocker will have a fragile, lovely vocal melody. There's a lot of new stuff, which sounds great--I cannot wait for the album that they supposedly have largely recorded--and just one song from their excellent EP. They play "Captain Awesome," with which they had been closing their sets, before the end, and this song (which was already great before) has gotten so fucking majestic it's scary.
live show summary
Date: March 23, 2005 (Wednesday)