THE OUTFIT @ LARIMER LOUNGE | 8/24/13 The Outfit saved one of its best songs for late in the set, and the sparkling urgency at the beginning of "What Happened To You?" perfectly framed the song's poignant lyrics, which were inspired by a chance encounter Eric Johnston had at a school library a few years back, overhearning an interview with an Iraqi war veteran. The guys brought a palpable amount of energy to the song, making an already engaging performance even more so.
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With thirteen original songs in the set, the Outfit covered a lot of ground, playing nearly a half dozen songs from its latest effort, Tough Kids, along with three from Broken West Wishbone Test, and the act even dusted off "Bricks" from the its debut EP from 2009. On this night, even the older material seemed to benefit from a near reinvention performed with this lineup. Tunes that might have received a more tentative treatment on earlier albums got a boost of confidence here without losing the more thoughtful undertones that give the songs a bit of depth.
Certainly the guys gave it their all for this performance, but you felt like there was a kind of unspoken understanding informing the songs, conveying the various struggles people deal with and sometimes even triumph over every day, like something Bruce Springsteen conveys or Tom Petty might have penned. The Outfit has a different songwriting style, of course, but it had similar effect. This was especially apparent in the way the band played the new EP's title track, "Tough Kids" with lots of bluster and verve but also with a feeling of solidarity.
Someone identified only as Dr. Music came on stage for a few songs during the set to play keys/synths, and that extra layer gave those songs an atmospheric depth. After the end of its main set, the band came back and played a couple of covers, including a version of the Hot IQs' "Twos and Threes," on which guitarist Mikael Kilates, already incredibly impressive the rest of the show, absolutely shined on the solo.
Kilates teased a bit of the final song of the night on his guitar, but even that did not quite prepare us for a full blown, spot on, un-ironic cover of "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr. Before that, Johnston told us that he and Mike King had gone into a building once and saw something that wasn't right; he didn't elaborate, and they both asked, "What the fuck was that?" Then, he told us, they went to write that song. It was an appropriately light-hearted joke to a set of songs that were charged with emotional highs, even as the subject matter was very serious. This is certainly a key to the band's appeal.
Earlier in the evening, Faceman offered up a vibrant set of its own with its distinctive brand of earnest and catchy tunes. While the Outfit might be characterized as power pop, Faceman plays more straightforward rock -- well, straightforward being a relative term. Playing guitar parts that wouldn't fit in with most mainstream rock, the trio's unimonikered frontman displayed a knack for turning repetition into something compelling that builds tension before an inevitable release.
Along with playing familiar songs that the crowd knew well and sang along with, Faceman tried out a new song called "Let Me Go," which Steve said was based on current events -- something he rarely taps for direct inspiration for his songs. When Steve and his cohorts left the stage, Boba Fett and the Americans came in just as they had at last weekend's Five Iron Frenzy show and played an even shorter set of hip-hop covers on their marching band instruments, much to the delight of the crowd, many of whom may not have known what exactly was going on at first.
Personal Bias: I've been a fan of the Outfit since early on in its existence. Random Detail: Ran into Gregg Dolan of the Kissing Party, Amy Moore-Shipley of Radio 1190's the Local Shakedown and Marcus from Literati Records at the show. By the Way: The songs from Tough Kids resonate with the way Paul Westerberg articulated a solidarity with and a compassion for the frustration and pain of not just the adolescent experience but of the eternal adolescent within even as we transition into adulthood.