Over the Weekend...The Chain Gang of 1974 @ Urban Outfitters(?!)

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Photo Courtesy of Kara Davidson/Urban Outfitters

The Chain Gang of 1974 Saturday, May 10, Urban Outfitters, Boulder Better Than: The last show you saw at the Gap

You wouldn’t expect a chain retail store to support local live music, but this weekend, on the increasingly homogenized and decreasingly unique Pearl Street Mall, the unlikely venue of Urban Outfitters offered up a truly unique event. Part of the store’s “Land Locked and Rocked” series of shows, Friday night’s performance by the Chain Gang of 1974 proved that even a predictable, highly calculated place like UO can still harbor a surprise or two.

The Chain Gang of 1974 – brainchild of Kamtin Mohager, formerly of the Vanity – makes the kind of organic electro music that would make LCD Soundsystem and the Juan MacLean proud. In just a little over a year, the act has drawn an impressive following with its Monster Energy Drink-fueled, bass-banging, party-starting live shows and generous MySpace downloads. But this is probably the first time the group has found itself performing in a clothing and housewares store – and definitely the first time that part of the pay was in the form of store credit.

Word of the show had apparently gotten around – especially among the female teen and tween set – as dozens of junior high students (I’m using the term loosely; I didn’t actually check anyone’s IDs) dutifully filed in to the megastore. A makeshift stage with a basic PA had been setup in the lower level of the store, crammed in between clothing racks and dorm furniture.

Mohager and drummer Adam Halferty, however, took the stage as it were the Warped Tour, charging out of the gates with a crowd-pleasing rendition of “We at the Disco,” from the act’s forthcoming record, Mad Paranoid. Though the group had to work hard against the vibe of the venue – it’s hard to forget you’re in an Urban Outfitters when there are ironic t-shirts and overpriced trinkets wherever you look – the audience responded and managed to create the feeling of a real concert. While Halferty’s precise live drumming added an engaging dimension to the electronic backing tracks, Mohager crooned, howled and barked his lines with confidence and charisma. Between songs, the frontman exhorted the mostly-underage crowd to move closer to the stage and get the party started. The modest PA actually delivered a powerful and well-balanced sound, though Mohager’s vocals were consistently a little too loud. At one point, the bouncing bass line of “We at the Disco” knocked merchandise off the wall.

The brief, but thoroughly satisfying, performance included other TCOG1974 favorites, such as “Dance Kiss Love Move,” “New York Dressed Girl,” and “Let’s Make It Tonight.” Halferty switched from drums to bass for at least one track, and Mohager frequently added to the rhythmic madness by playing live toms, cowbell, agogo bells and more. In response to the act’s conviction and energy, the audience clapped, screamed and sang along. For a group that is still relatively underground, it was surprising, thrilling and gratifying – and a testament to the band’s appeal – to hear so many crowd members – especially the teenaged girls – shouting along with the words of even the newest songs.

When the show ended, Mohager was immediately mobbed by his jailbait fans, all jostling for pictures and hugs. Not content with the usual out-of-focus camera phone shots, many of the girls had brought along real cameras to capture soon-to-be-treasured images that will undoubtedly dapple their MySpace pages tomorrow. The good-natured, fan-loving artist happily obliged, giving his young fans more of what they want – himself.

-- Eryc Eyl

Personal Bias: I’m a sucker for live instrumentation blended with electro beats. Random Detail: The Monster Energy Drink comment was no joke. A table near the stage held cases of the stuff for fans to feed their raging hormones. By the Way: The Chain Gang of 1974 is about to embark on an eight-state tour, sponsored by Adversity Apparel, with Kill Paradise, Artist Vs. Poet, and Young & Divine. Catch the kickoff show, with Brokencyde, on May 17th at the Marquis Theater.

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