Thursday October 31st, 2002 at the Replay Lounge in Lawrence KS
namelessnumberheadman & Trusty Defiant

namelessnumberheadman namelessnumberheadman Trusty Defiant Trusty Defiant [more]

Much can be said about my Halloween evening, but I'll skip it all and transmit just the details about the rock.

Dana and I arrived at Lawrence's 8th Street Tap Room a little before 10pm – (the time the voice on the phone told me the show would start). Having wandered around the club a bit looking for the stage, we eventually deduced it must be downstairs. Dana walked down and tried to open the closed door, but was stopped by a bartender-type who said the room wasn't open yet. I decided we should just go in anyway, and we settled into the cold basement of the Tap Room to wait while the bands set up. Luckily, we still had one free game of Scrabble left on Dana's Palm Pilot before we have to (and won't) register. Nothing passes the time as well as staring at your opponent as she spends eight minutes staring at a tiny illuminated screen attempting to make a fifty point word from the letters CAIDLMN. Please just make "damn" or "laid" and move on.

I'm not sure what time it was when the bartender (allegedly dressed as a fly) opened the basement to the other club-goers and began fiddling with her bottles behind the bar, but soon 20 or so patrons, most of them in costumes, filled the dungeon of a club.

Whatever Trusty Defiant played that evening was rightly overshadowed by Dan Lee's costume: a complete (and homemade) Sideshow Bob outfit consisting of big red shoes, a grass skirt, an animal tooth necklace, and giant, red, tentacled hair strapped onto his shaved head. Luckily, the members of Trusty Defiant are a stationary crowd, as Lee was not able to move much with the cumbersome headwear. Guitarist/vocalist Jeff Mitchell was more mobile in his Abraham Lincoln costume (punctuated with New Balance sneakers), although he spent much of the evening with his body towards his amplifier and away from the audience. Drummer Mike Wade might have been a secret stagehand, or might have just wanted to wear black tights with a black shirt – I'm just not sure.

With the costume rundown now complete, we can focus on the music presented by the three-piece. The band is obviously math rock with a variety of twists and turns; their approach, however, is somewhat softer. The songs seem to have more structure and don't exist entirely as a collection of ultra-tight shifts and aggravatingly repetitious lock grooves. Although bands like Shellac are able to walk this line with great success, Trusty Defiant just doesn't have the technical expertise or the material to pull it off. As a result, the band is likely to appeal to fans of harder-edged indie, such as A Storied Northwest, much more than it might the fans of the lunging, chopping, and jagged math genre.

A quick interesting aside: It seemed as though the final three songs of the set shifted in tone a bit and the band tightened up substantially. Whether this was a result of something clicking within the band late into its set, material of a different period, or if I was finally able to catch onto the band's rhythm, I'm unsure. It also may be that I sat down during the final three songs (instead of taking pictures) and listened to the band with my eyes closed and half asleep. Maybe it was this pulling of Trusty Defiant into the realm of ethereal headphone music that made them suddenly more enjoyable.

While this was my first Trusty Defiant show, it was much closer to my 20th namelessnumberheadman show. The band began their set with "Douglas Rossback's Indecision," and continued into an eight-song set of songs taken from their most recent album when we leave, we will know where we've been as well as the demo ep 100,000 Subtle Times. No sneaky covers, no unreleased songs, no oldies dug up from the past. No Halloween fun.

The band's costumes continued the trend of underwelmment with Chuck Whittington dressed up in a cheap three-piece suit, and his hair cleanly parted and flattened to his head with gel. He later demonstrated (a little too well) that his costume was that of a televangelist. Jason Lewis just appeared to be a generic indie rocker but evidently he was the gal from The White Stripes. He was wearing red and white... Andrew Sallee just wore his uniform from The Pitch Music Awards, although this time he wasn't Andrew Sallee member of namelessnumberheadman, but rather Max Fischer of Rushmore fame. Hmmm, weak. Of course, I wasn't in a costume at all, so double weak on me.

Luckily for the band, Halloween comes but once a year; it's the music that matters the other 364 days. On Halloween, as all other days, the band's music was marked by delicate compositions, epic movements, and dense layers of electronic indie pop. Whether it can be acredited to basement acoustics or the refined ear of some sound professional, both voices resounded clearly.

Although their song selection didn't include any Halloween gimmicks (or even variety), each time the band plays a song it seems to be a little different. The band is very fond of changing the samples used throughout the set, especially in "How to Attract Love." That particular song is reinvented each time a new long-running sample is chosen. Other changes can be blamed on the inability to reproduce such a lush song with only three players and six arms. In those cases some obvious concessions have been made: a guitar instead of a keyboard here, a keyboard instead of a xylophone there, and a few bits included as only as pre-recorded sequences. Although this seldom works in a live setting, namelessnumberheadman makes this feat seem old hat. Lewis's expertise allows him to blend these sequences in and out of the live instruments quite organically. The band is always refining this recipe of live vs. programmed music, so it follows that no matter how many times you may hear them perform "The More it Stays the Same," it is always going to sound different.

The show ended quickly and Dana and I slipped out in preparation for an early alarm later that morning. Dunkin' Donuts is still closed for renovations [does anyone know when it will reopen?] so I have nothing else to report.