Earlier in the night, you wouldn't have guessed that so many people would have shown up so enthusiastic for a local band, many of them knowing the words to all the songs. But Dirty Few from the beginning hyped people up with antics meant to pump themselves up for the show: Spencer Stone asked the crowd for some goddamns and got them, while Seth Stone seemed to gear up for what was to come in a handful of seconds like someone flipped a switch on stage and in the crowd.
This crowd was not a mere audience that stood around taking everything in; these folks were excited about the band and glad to engage them. And Dirty Few didn't mind that people got on stage and sang. Heck, Spencer came forward to sing with people -- put his arm around them and sang with them. With the various guests on stage, some formal and others clearly not, it was truly like a communal experience for anyone that decided to show up. The raw energy exuded by the group was infectious and a number of people engaged in crowd surfing beyond the area close to the front.
The band's performance straddled that line between captivating musicality and unhinged emotional display. Seth often came up off his drum seat from the force of emotional release in playing the songs. Spencer ran around across stage, dodging the multiple cups hurled at him from the crowd, not always being able to duck away in time, but also not caring. Justin Trujillo grinned and hurled his urgent bass line into the mix. You couldn't help but smile at seeing a band so caught up in the moment.
And it wasn't just that. The songs were simple but powerful. It was like you imagine it would have been like to see the Clean in 1981 or some great Northwest garage rock band. There was a drive and electricity to the group and a momentum to the show from beginning to end that hasn't happened here much since the last time you got to see the Messy Hairs or Scott Baio Army, even Planes Mistaken For Stars. While Dirty Few's sound and vibe was completely different from any of those bands, the spirit, the raw essence of celebrating the joy of living that was at the core of all of that music was very present at this show.
During "Get Loose Have Fun," some people came from the back of the stage and threw confetti filled balloons out into the audience. At some point some people in Aquabats uniforms appeared and joined in on the fun and mayhem during the performance of the Aquabats' song, "Super Rad." Toward the end, Seth came off his drum seat and crowd surfed himself and somehow got a hold of a fixture on the ceiling and hung there and exuberantly screamed out -- because what else can you do you do in such a heightened moment? Raucous is such an inadequate word for what this show was like because it would have been difficult not to get swept up in its current of fun and good will. The show ended with "Outta Control." Intentional, but also a very accurate and succinct statement about the entire performance.
"This travesty is Warhawk," said singer and guitarist Alex Eschen before his band's set began. The band hadn't played in around five months, but it didn't really show except for the kinds of timing errors in the beginnings of songs that most bands do often. Eschen's voice had that kind of soulful warble that you hear when Ian Astbury sings in the Cult, especially on Electric. Musically, it was a compelling blend of power pop, punked-up country rock and boogie.
In the middle of the set, Eschen told us they would play Neil Young and then fade into Pentagram. There was a tuning issue, though, so the Neil Young song ended earlier than usual. During the tuning interlude, Eschen told us an eloquent and amusing story about how he got his spider tattoo and how it wove into differing views about the nature of rock and roll. True to Eschen's word, Warhawk did play Pentagram in the form of a commanding take on "Starlady." The band ended its set with an original called "Sea Witch."
It had probably been a good long while since many people at the show had seen the Photo Atlas. Fortunately the band put in the kind of show that not only reminded them why the outfit garnered so much attention before, but demonstrated the ways in which it has honed its craft and learned to reinvent itself in a way that didn't dispense with what made the band noteworthy from the beginning.
One immediately noticeable change was the fact that Josh Taylor and Mark Hawkins create the kind of expressive rhythms between them that not only give the music its great momentum, but it allows for guitarists Bill Threlkeld III and newcomer Luis (this being his second show with the band) to pursue a shifting dynamic between angular and jittery and a cycling flow of interweaving guitar lines.
Now that singer Alan Andrews is unmoored from guitar duties, he was able to be the emotional lightning rod he's always been but even more so. The guy was never less than compelling, but with this show, his command of the audience was even greater.
Seeing these guys this time made it easy to appreciate what each member brings individually to the band and how it works together to make the kind of dance-y post-punk and post-hardcore that spawned it seem relevant all over again. The wiry energy and the forceful flurry of the band's rhythms were irresistible.
Personal Bias: A few bands have won me over after initially not knowing what to think. Dirty Few is one of them. Rock and roll is alive and well when a band that fired up exists.
Random Detail: Get Loose Have Fun was available on cassette at the show. Highly recommended.
By the Way: The Photo Atlas have a new album, Stuck in a Honey Trap, that's slated to be released at a show at the hi-dive on February 8, and they played plenty of that material during the set tonight.
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