Speakeasy, Tiger and AT05 at 1515

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Speakeasy, Tiger and AT05 
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Better than: Eating handfuls of sleeping pills and looking through photos of your ex-wife -- after all, it's Valentine's Day

Generally speaking, I avoid clubs like 1515. It's the kind of bar where there's always a herd of broad-shouldered men in lime green shirts with blondes on their arms gathered on the patio, waves of techno and the stench of trying too hard washing over their faded crewcuts and goatees.

But for a short time, Speakeasy, Tiger managed to make me like it. Less than a year old (its core members previously made up A Girl Named Kyle), the band and its overhauled sound have managed to draw considerable attention on the scene, and rightly so: The tight licks and polished performance couldn't help but turn heads and get them nodding, even when it was clear that few people in the bar knew who the band was. The show was obviously not heavily promoted -- it wasn't even listed on the band's website when I checked on Thursday -- and so it was a testament to Speakeasy, Tiger's level of showmanship that the act put on a near-flawless, time-stopping show at a write-off gig, a mere precursor to their much bigger show at the Marquis on Thursday. 

Drummer Luke Gordon -- whose admitted infatuation with Killers drummer Ronnie Vanucci shows -- was in top form, upping the dance quotient to eleven with precise, hi-hat-driven beats and immaculate style. Elsewhere, keyboardist Pete Schmidt threw down the hooks and jumped around the stage with his key-tar like Devo revisited, at times playing another keyboard simultaneously. Kyle Simmons, meanwhile, belted lyrics with a full, practiced voice that at times recalled K.T. Tunstall. And while she spent a lot of time looking at her band - she definitely could've worked the crowd a little more -- her moderated enthusiasm was perhaps understandable, considering the venue.

Although I had pretty much changed my mind about 1515 by the end of Speakeasy, Tiger's too-short set, I had pretty much changed it back thanks to  headliner AT05. Following Speakeasy, Tiger's immaculate performance, AT05 was a reminder that tight, cultivated musicianship (though it certainly helps) does not an awesome band make. 

AT05 was obviously a band of capable musicians, especially the lead guitarist, whose soloing blew my hair back more than a couple of times. But the band's palm-mute heavy, Metallica knock-off sound -- the lead singer, from his vocal intonation to his haircut, obviously owes a debt to James Hetfield -- was repetitive and tedious, and the set was way too long. AT05 made me think of the band that's always playing in the background during the scene in the college movie when the cast is gathered at some rock club (where, improbably, you can hear the characters talking), and the camera cuts to the band's eyelinered frontman (yes, AT05's frontman was wearing eyeliner) long enough for him to pout some bland lyric just before a cut back to the male lead, who says something glib, and then the scene changes.

I wanted the scene to change.

Inadequate venue and unfortunate pairing aside, Speakeasy, Tiger proved to be a diamond in the turd, and it was worth digging through to find it. This, I hope, is a band destined for great things -- it certainly deserves it.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I'm a sucker for key-tars
Random Detail: During AT05's soundcheck, some drunk yelled, "Freebird!" and the guitarist actually began playing it
By the way: Speakeasy, Tiger plays Bands You Need to Know at the Marquis Theater on Thursday, February 19

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