Boyhollow opened the show and set the stage for the rock bands that followed with a selection of songs that included some of the latter day melodic post-punk bands. He looked like he'd dressed up for Goth night at the Church, and played the kind of music that should be part of that night's repertoire but pretty much never is.
Io Echo from Los Angeles followed and established the visual style for the evening with a stage shrouded in fog lit by various colored lights enhancing the drama of the music. The singer, Io, cut a commanding figure with a voice like a more winsome, but less earthy, Laetitia Sadier.
The band's best songs were the darker, moodier numbers. Just the same, although it seemed a bit too watered down and radio-friendly compared to the other material, the upbeat "Doorway," the song from that Sprint commercial, which lo played at the very end of the set, seemed to excite the crowd.
It seems remiss for A Place to Bury Strangers not to have the headlining slot. Pouring every fiber of their being into every show they play, the band makes it difficult for anyone playing afterward to even remotely measure up. Chopping up its influences and piecing it back together in new and interesting ways, the band blasted the Bluebird with savage grace.
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Yes, this band has stage lights that enhance the effect of the music but the songs stand on their own: "In Your Heart" was blistering, "Deadbeat" was as bludgeoning as it was uplifting and closing with the razory majesty of "Ocean" reflected an inspired brutality that was beyond impressive.
The Big Pink did its level best to follow Strangers. Entering with Cypress Hill's "I Wanna Get High" playing over the P.A., the band definitely struck a pose in the wash of fog and blue and green lighting. Frontman Robbie Furze swaggered in the best tradition of his English rock predecessors, and the band performed with an undeniable passion for the songs.
The group's pop instincts are often spot on -- as evidenced with the hit song "Dominos," which it saved for last -- but it also seems as though the Pink is still figuring out its musical identity. And this is reflected in the act's live show, which was somewhat uneven. Big Pink did its best to compensate for this, however, with confidence and showmanship, even as the uplifting melodies and gorgeous gossamer guitar work hinted at much greater possibilities in the group's future songwriting.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: A Place to Bury Strangers combines some of my favorite sounds into a cohesive musical force. Random Detail: Leopold Ross, bassist for the Big Pink, wore a T-shirt that said, "Safe in Heaven. Dead." By the Way: Akiko Matsuura , drummer for the Big Pink, also plays in experimental band PRE.