The Don'ts and Be Carefuls have never been ones to skimp on their emotional generosity on stage. So in that regard, this final performance was not that much different from the band's already high standard. But it was just a notch better because on this night, these guys performed in a way in which their love for the music was palpable and their appreciation for the fans was unmistakable. What was assumed would be a well-attended night turned out to be a sold out show.
At the beginning of the set, Cody Witsken distributed balloons in the audience. Later he remarked that he had blown up some two hundred balloons and then counted only eight. From the stage, Witsken opened up bags of party favors and threw them to various sections of the audience. A funeral should not be a morbid affair, he said, but rather a celebration and that that in a similar spirit, he wanted to make his band's last show a party. Fortunately the crowd went along with it enthusiastically and pretty much every song people sang along.
Opening with "So Money," it was obvious the guys were indeed going to deliver on the implied promise of a great show for their last with this band. Casey Banker's expressive and emotionally vibrant vocals amid upbeat and insistent rhythms and bright melodies and the way this band has always been able to transport to a better place in the mind and in the heart made you forget this was going to be the group's last show. It's the kind of pop music that sweeps you up in its momentum with lyrics that shine a light on vulnerable places and times in a person's life with a rare sensitivity and compassion. All without an ounce of pretension.
With the sound mix this night, it was even more obvious than ever that the DBCs integrated rock instrumentation with synths better than most bands ever do. In that sense it achieved the kind of sonic alchemy accomplished by its heroes, LCD Soundsystem. There was still that refreshing melodic catharsis that scrubbed the haze of everyday frustration and blandness from your mind with every song.
The Don'ts and Be Carefuls at the Hi-Dive
With a selection of songs spanning four years of writing music, The DBCs played older songs like the always powerful "The New World" (which Witsken dedicated to Kissing Party) and a song that Luke Hunter James-Erickson said was an early, silly one, "Insomnia." At the very end, the guys even performed the first song they ever wrote with "Color TV." But the whole time they played the music with a joyful energy that could be seen on their faces, especially James-Erickson, who looked even giddy at times. If any of the band's songs could be considered silly, it should be chalked up to development; most of us should be so lucky to write such good songs out the gate.
During the aforementioned "The New World," the band was joined on stage by Britt Rodemich and Kissing Party's Gregg Dolan who sang along with Banker at times. Then more people joined in later during another song, but it got to be too much, and Banker hinted that later in the set it might be okay. And then at the end, it seemed like a third of the audience got up on the stage and right before the end Banker had an issue with his guitar so he just took the mike and didn't lose a beat as he and the rest of the band brought the night to a close with one of its most beloved songs among many.
I Sank Molly Brown at the Hi-Dive
The night started off with I Sank Molly Brown. The trio set up near the front of the stage in a line with John Moses to stage right, Caleb Tardio in the middle and Dylan Self on stage left. There is probably some significance to this as the band has played in this arrangement for some time now, maybe from the beginning. Either way, Moses seemed to pack a lot of power with his combination of kick and floor tom strikes because those along with Self's intricate but rhythmic bass lines seemed to give the band more of a robust low end than one would expect.
In the beginning of a song somewhere toward the end of the set, Moses joked about a song title, though with these guys it could be real, and then the three of them played the first bar or two of "Barracuda" by Heart. Someone in the audience feigned being disappointed. Earlier on, Tardio warned us the next song was new and Self said, "This is the musical equivalent of a married couple playing 'strangers' at the bar."
What followed was one of the outfits most interesting and varied songs. If you tried to count the time signature changes, or maybe just the chances of pace, you might have gotten lost. But you also would have missed the point of the song just being fun for the band to play, while also being incredibly entertaining, as Tardio punctured the Battles-worthy labyrinth of a song with cathartic vocalizations.
After it was over, Tardio laughed and remarked, "If you were wondering why there were so many notes out of key, we are wondering too." After the show speaking with Tadio, he said it was an experiment in not -- and this isn't his word -- over thinking a song in writing one. If the song in question is any example, it's a good flash of intuition to follow.
Kissing Party at the Hi-Dive
Kissing Party had a red LED-lit banner spelling out its name hanging from the ceiling. The band finally has in place some lighting rigs and fog that really accentuate its visual presence for this show. After having seen this band numerous times in the last five years, and after listening to the group's music for roughly six years, this was probably the most solid performance I've been able to see.
Deirdre Sage's melodious vocals harmonized well with those of Gregg Dolan. Instead of kind of hanging back with a hoodie on, Dolan emoted and rocked out some with the guitar -- well, as much as you can playing fairly twee, winsome material. The rock we've long had to assume was -- and still is -- the work of Joe Hansen, Lee Evans and Shane Reid.
Dolan didn't even emerge from his Britpop stage cocoon purely for sharing dark humor. It ended up making the band's songs even more engaging and touching in a way because none of the elements was off this night. Those of us already a fan of the music got to see Kissing Party without some of the accidental humor that can happen during and around a live show, which was good to see.
Hindershot at the Hi-Dive
Hindershot came on with its usual bombastic mixture of Eno-via-Pavement-and-Devo brand of music. These guys always seem to leap into the music with an rare vigor, and it's not just run-of-the-mill-trendy indie rock either. It was like a more sonically expansive late '80s post-punk. Stuart Confer is quickly becoming one of the most skilled onstage musician/improv comedians.
While he was conferring with the band and tuning, someone, likely a friend, yelled, "Hey Danzig, do you want to play a song already?" To which Confer gave an immediate, "Fuck you! Don't call me Danzig! Doesn't Danzig bathe in blood or is that just a rumor on the internet." If a joke from Aquateen Hunger Force is to be taken at face value, Danzig would eat cereal from the bottom of someone's fucking skull.
All joking aside, Hindershot is one of those bands whose members give themselves full up to the music and seem almost possessed by it, all while still being able to be goofy and have fun with it and bring us along for that ride. Ned Garthe even did some absurd interpretive dancing mid-set, and it just seemed to make sense in the demented world of Hindershot.
At the end, though, there was a song that was very reminiscent of Script of the Bridge-era Chameleons. Before the set concluded, Confer dedicated a song to Mitt Romney. Some people actually booed their disapproval. Not that it wasn't deserved, though Confer said, "What? You have a problem with that?" The refrain from the song was "I'm so so-so." That more than hints at where Confer's bread is buttered on that score.
Personal Bias: I saw one of the earliest Don'ts and Be Carefuls shows in the summer of 2008 and have been a fan since.
Random Detail: Ran into artist Broox Pulford and former Eyes Caught Fire bassist Noah Winningham at the show.
By the Way: The DBCs finally released Won't Be Back: Collected Demos and Live Songs. Thanks for that little gift, guys.
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