Concert Reviews

Live Review: Rx Bandits, Portugal. The Man, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground at Marquis

Rx Bandits, Portugal. The Man, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground Tuesday, August 12, 2008 Marquis Theatre Better Than: You might guess

Trying to predict who might show up to last night’s show defines an exercise in futility. Rowdy frat brothers? Check. Kids who appeared to be about twelve? Yep. Long-haired hipsters? More than a few, in fact. Such diversity simply speaks to what happens when three bands all seemingly in transition tour together: New and old fans gather, no one’s really out of place and everyone gets something out of the experience.

Kay Kay and his Weathered Underground might be the least or most radical of these transitioners, depending on your timeline. The act currently sounds nothing like Gatsby’s American Dream, which the two frontmen left in 2006, but it hasn’t changed much over the last two years. The band sounds more comfortable in its skin than ever before, as if the members are not just rejecting their post-hardcore roots anymore but simply forgetting they existed.

The group’s psychedelic pop seems to be created on the fly, and sounds organic and exciting and always melodic. There’s a weird sort of coherency to the loose set of songs, and if they were tightened up a bit, they could risk losing what makes the band so special: Consistently unpredictable beauty. Kirk Huffman’s rambling banter felt right for the show, and the crowd who came to see ‘60s pop through a new lens were rewarded with a great, laid-back vibe.

Portugal. The Man may have helped out some of those who thought that Kay Kay might resurrect the Gatsbyian streak of wild, frenetic guitar and soaring vocals. The outfit was about as fuzzed-out rawking as you can get and didn’t play too many songs, so that meant some serious jamming was in order. The light show gave the crushing songs an even more grandiose power and felt extremely necessary in the Marquis, which has an extremely minimal setup.

There wasn’t as much subtlety in the songs as there is on Portugal’s ever-mutating recording career, but the slow-burning blues destroyed the need for it. John Baldwin Gourley’s voice cut through the fuzz his guitar created, and that his bandmates reinforced. His lack of banter was as appropriate as Huffman’s excess, and the crowd, which had grown larger seemed to understand that they were seeing rock so badass that they required no knowledge of its past or future to enjoy it.

I didn’t really understand the Rx Bandits, the night’s headliners. The group transitioned from ska-punk to something more like prog rock on record, but live, the bands still seemed to just milk the fist-pumping moments that made the bros raise their PBRs for all it was worth. That’s fine, everyone should have music they can still love and expect to not change, but I felt like Rx Bandits’ progression was superficial, and that the act was being deceptive in some way to those who thought they were getting the new stuff.

Of course, it could also be that my ears had just had enough by then. I left after a couple of songs, and went outside the Marquis, where the crowd was still as strange and as large, as ever. We’re all transitioning, I guess. I used to listen to ska and post-hardcore. Now I mostly don’t. I almost envy those who can forego the often fruitless trials of experimentation. For a band, however, it seems essential. A courageous band can get twice the fans and a show like last night’s exhibits that, even as it also proves the dangers of such attempts.

-- James Anthofer

Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: I think I kind of let that slip already. Random Detail: JBG seemed to be rocking it, not just in concert, but also with some companions at the bar after the show. By The Way: Kay Kay’s Kyle O’ Quin was outside the show during Rx Bandits and was talking with Chris Velarde. He was as friendly as you can get and really eager to talk about music to anyone. He says he’s been doing more producing than playing the last few months.

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Dave Herrera
Contact: Dave Herrera