This Weekend: Cowboy Curse, Cat-a-tac and Apples in Stereo @ Bluebird Theater

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Cowboy Curse, Cat-a-tac, Apples in Stereo August 31, 2007 The Bluebird Better than: Any other fruit you could name. Slide Show

It’s refreshing when a show starts on time. Cowboy Curse, opening for the Apples in Stereo, took the stage less than five minutes after the scheduled start time of the show – practically early in Rock Time. The downside to this is that nearly everyone attending the show was on Rock Time as well, or at least entering fashionably late, so the band was playing to a nearly empty house.

Despite that, and some early sound problems in the shape of ear-splitting feedback and muffled vocals, Cowboy Curse soldiered on, playing like they were the headliners in front of a packed house. And it worked, as people started responding to the music and the place seemed suddenly a lot more alive. It didn’t hurt that people continued to arrive, but it was the group’s spirited, passionate delivery of solid, catchy material – sweet but tough pop songs delivered on punchy, crunchy legs of rock – that set the tone and delivered the set.

Cat-a-Tac followed after a short break. They delivered a really solid slate of songs that sounded just like they do on the album, only turned up to eleven. That’s great, because the album is really pretty excellent, but it’s also an impressive feat to duplicate the multilayered, and effects-rich sound live. Sounding like a spacier take on the poppiest side of the Jesus and Mary Chain, they push a sweet breeze of swirling, rippling distortion across a driving rhythmic tattoo of drums and bass, while heavenly vocals deliver bittersweet musings. And it was all done with admirable polish and top-notch energy.

The Apples in Stereo came on looking like band ready to have good time, from the superhero outfit – complete with cape – sported by one keyboard player, to Robert Schneider’s palpable glow. And they were fun – like, scary fun. They were just a big, exuberant eruption of joy bubbles. With a reputation built on mastery of sugary-sweet pop confections, that was no surprise. What was pleasantly surprising is they had a nice rock edge that propelled the songs to a delirious high. Everywhere you looked, people were singing along, dancing or even seemed on the verge of crying. Sure, this is a band with a following and plenty of folks would have been overwhelmed with joy even with a mediocre showing, but they did their best to justify those fans’ faith and it was plenty enough to please the fans with ample amounts left over to convert most doubters as well. With their relatively new album and this kick-ass show to launch their tour, the Apples are back, and they’re shining. -- Cory Casciato

Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: Strangely, Apples in Stereo is one of the Elephant 6 bands I am least familiar with. Random Detail: Some dude got pretty upset that I was taking his picture, until he found out I was the media and not his MySpace stalker. By the Way: The Apples had about forty video cameras there, recording the show for posterity, so you may get to hear and see it someday even if you weren’t there.

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