The Fluid at Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey

The Fluid at Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey


It was a painfully cold night in northern New Jersey, but the legendary Maxwell's was plenty warm, and any thoughts of harsh weather were eclipsed once the show got started. Opening, oddly enough, was Overcasters from Denver. The band had been invited to share the stage with the Fluid on two East Coast dates, including this gig and the date the following night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, and probably should have been given the middle slot over a relatively unknown local band.

The Fluid at Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey

Overcasters opened with "Expect the Worst," and the iridescent character

of that instrumental set the stage for what was to come. For this show,

videographer Shane Williams created an especially effective string of

spirals, splashes of color and movement and abstract imagery to augment

the mood of the music, utilizing cloudy blues, muted reds, vibrant

pastels and shadings suggesting depth and flow. Maxwell's is a room

smaller than even the hi-dive, but the sonic character of that square

chamber, expertly dialed in by a sound guy specifically brought in by

the Fluid, made Overcasters sound better than it ever has. "Hey Hope"

sounded uplifting and bracing all at once, and "Electrocution" lived up

to its name, ending the set in a sustained burst of wails and thick

rhythms. New bassist Ed Marshall added a more dynamically textured

flavor to the act's sound than it previously enjoyed, and he seamlessly

rocked along with the rest of the band.

The Fluid at Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey

The King Left, at first, had me wondering why it was on the bill at

all, because I'd seen more than my fair share of uninspired "dance

punk" bands out of Denver alone. It was kind of like getting to see a

non-moody version of Interpol at first, but as the set went on, I heard

more than a passing dose of Pavement and Sonic Youth in the act's

overall sound. And yet there was plenty of variation in the

songwriting to make the music interesting. The singer had an excellent

voice, and at least none of the members of this outfit played with a

cooler-than-thou attitude. The drummer was absolutely solid and

refreshingly devoid of flash. What I could discern of the lyrics seemed

intelligent, and the band's final song had great atmospheric dynamics

between the two guitarists. Sure, these guys haven't quite outgrown

their influences, but the drift of their songwriting shows promise.

The Fluid at Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey

Sometime during Overcasters' set, Kurt Ottaway said something about the

Fluid being the greatest rock-and-roll band of all time. And when the

band opened its set like a bomb with "Cold Outside," such hyperbole

seemed entirely warranted. Everyone in the group is in his forties, but

the Fluid, on this night, could have leveled any other rock-and-roll

band I've ever seen. The sheer force of "Candy" was irresistible and

maddening. During "Black Glove," John Robinson rode the crowd for the

first time in the set, and when he was dumped back on stage, he rolled forward and leapt up like Iggy or Jim Morrison and

went immediately back into the song. "Fool's Rule" was surprisingly

fiery and darkly aggressive - far more so than the album version. The

set ended with one of the act's best songs, "Is it Day," but the guys

weren't done with us yet and came back on for truly inspired

performances of "Static" and "Twisted & Pissed." During the latter,

Robinson rode the crowd to about the middle of the room before being

carried back to the stage. It seems as though a lot of "rock and roll"

bands these days do it as a pose, an imitation, whereas the Fluid

embodied what rock is all truly about: freedom, inspiration, good will,

fun, creativity and catharsis. Without an ounce of self-consciousness

or an attempt to ape the past, the Fluid have come back to show us how

it's done right.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: I'm from Aurora, just like the Fluid, and there's little

in Aurora you can be proud of. The Fluid fills that bill nicely.

Random Detail: Maxwell's, the venue, is attached to a somewhat large restaurant with incredibly good food.

By the Way: Someone please do a cool reissue of the Fluid's entire

catalogue. Many bands deserve the red carpet treatment, and it's about

time it happened for these guys.

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