Monday October 15th, 2001 at The Bottleneck in Lawrence, KS
Death Cab for Cutie, Shiner & The Prom
I suppose if the worst thing that happens in your day revolves around the struggles to find out the door time for a lukewarm indie rock show, then you really shouldn't complain. So enough said about that.
A little after 8pm the doors opened and new constant-rock-buddy Erin and I slipped in paying the $6 or $7 or $8 or whatever the doorman asked for. Getting there early has one and only one perk; the pool tables are free. Early in the evening someone had racked up all the tables so when Erin and I arrived it simply meant finding an acceptable cue and breaking. I broke, I lost. I was taking it easy on her though because she kept telling me how bad she was. She wasn't that bad. We then moved to the next free table (oh yeah I'm cheap). This time Erin broke and again this time Erin one. It was a very slow game and really I knew I'd scratch the eight ball when I shot at the three. But sweet Lord, just something happen already!
After two half-hearted attempts at pool, Erin and I found a booth near the stage and started our indie rock posturing and posing. I might have beat Erin in that competition. Finally, a victory for me. Shortly afterwards friends started filing in and it wasn't long before I walked my way forward to see The Prom.
The Prom is a three piece consisting of guitar, drums and keyboards with a musical vocabulary that rests firmly between Sean Na Na and Ben Folds Five. It's definitely pop, some of it a little melancholy, none of it vapid, only some of it engaging. For some reason good players and good ideas didn't always make for good songs and only half the audience paid much attention. And only half of that group seemed to be getting into what they heard. I picked up both of their CDs and I figured I should find out if I liked them in the comfort of my home. The jury is still out.
Locals Shiner played next in what was the kick-off date for a tour promoting their new CD, The Egg. Although the band has returned to DeSoto where they found their fame almost a decade ago, the sound is far from a rehash of glory days. If the live show is an indication, nearly everything about the album is going to be challenging to Shiner's fans. The songs seem slower, more subtle and mature, still with plenty of direction, but with little propulsion. I hope to get my hands on a copy of the CD soon and find out where things lie.
Heading the affair was Death Cab For Cutie. Maybe 200 kids showed up and only a simple majority seemed to care about that band. Maybe this was due to the odd division between fans of Shiner and fans of Death Cab. Shiner's fans were the old locals, those I've seen at shows since I started going, and those that don't go to many shows other than Shiner's. They aren't hip, but they were once. Now they have potbellies, drink too much, and lament over the demise of good music. Death Cab's fans on the other hand have never heard good music, and their drinking isn't a problem but merely an addictive and deadly recreational event reinforced by their peer group. For half of them it's also illegal. They are hip and are sure they will remain that way forever. Will Hot Topic even let you in if you are over 21?
Anyway yeah there were differences and it was obvious when Death Cab played. I suppose I'm the stereotype as well as after four or five songs I made my way to the back of the club and struck up a conversation with a friend I hadn't seen in a while. In the horrible truth of college towns, he's going to graduate and move away. Ah well they'll always be an 18 year old kid coming in to replace each 23 year old one leaving with a hard-fought degree.
From the back of the room the band sounded much like they do in my living room… like background music. Their songs are always pleasant, always interesting but so seldom something for the foreground. Sitting down and listening to the band and letting them add atmosphere to voyeur's paradise was nice. Watching them from the front of the stage I was too bogged down in questions of sincerity. It this band just going through the motions? Are they as tired of this indie rock playbook as I am?
Erin popped up shortly afterwards and after saying goodbye to a friend we slipped out into the cold but smoke-free night. Oxygen never smelled so good. On the ride back Erin quickly dosed off and some paternal twinge in me smiled as the car cut through the fog on the way back to Kansas City. Next time she's getting the Dunkin' Donuts treatment though. Definitely.