Tapes ‘N Tapes and White Denim Saturday, May 17, 2008 Bluebird Theater Better than: The last two current “buzz bands” I saw live.
Seeing last year’s buzz band (or was it the year before…) can be a disheartening experience. Admittedly, the incredibly short half-life of bands in the era of the blog-buzz isn’t really fair, but many of those bands don’t really deserve much more time in the sun – or even the pittance allotted to them, for that matter. It’s even less exciting if you were one of the people that had overlooked or ignored them. That was my mindset as I headed to see Tapes ‘N Tapes, a band that had generated a buzz – which I had ignored, of course -- a while back for their album The Loon, but hadn’t made much of a ripple since.
Openers White Denim played an energetic, almost over-the-top style of rock that suffered a bit by trying to be too clever. At times the band flirted with Zeppelin-esque rock-god riffs, faux-Hendrix guitar pyrotechnics and jazzy, spazzy math-rock histrionics. It certainly wasn’t bad -- although a few flubs suggested the players might need to keep working on those scales at home – but it never really connected that well. At times, the act seemed to be flirting with the dreaded jam-band label. The best moments came near the end, when a couple of tracks settled into a driving, spacey, almost motorik locked-groove beat topped off with some squalling guitar. More of that and less of the smarty-pants pretensions that seemed to drive the majority of its work would have made White Denim a much more enjoyable prospect for me.
Tapes ‘N Tapes delivered a set that went down much easier. The band easily matched the frenetic on-stage energy of the opener, but used it to fuel material that was both stronger and far more accessible than White Denim’s. A solid basis of old-fashioned rock, spiced up with some modern indie tendencies and a little splash of cow-punk made for a solid sound. Catchy songs and a great stage presence helped push things to an entertaining and satisfying peak. The fact that I had only ever heard two or three of those songs, yet was immediately struck with the quality of the songwriting was a big point in the group's favor.
The band mentioned they were on the last stop of its tour, so maybe Denver got an extra-special dose of the awesome. Whatever the case, the performance convinced me that Tapes ‘N Tapes is a band worth looking into. Overlooking the group during its initial buzz period had apparently been my mistake -- one that I now intend to correct.
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Personal Bias: As mentioned Tapes ‘N Tapes had made basically zero impression on me before this show. Random Detail: The desire to be at the front of the Bluebird is quixotic, since the mix is a thousand times better near the middle of the room, close to the soundboard. By The Way: I’ll be buying up some Tapes ‘N Tapes albums soon, and I’ll definitely try to catch them live again. Recommended.