(Note: This review sat half vanished for a month and some change. By the time I got around to finishing this I had no recollection this show ever happened. So yeah here's what you get.)
Although the punctual geek in me would have preferred to leave for Lawrence much earlier, Dana and I did get on I-70 heading west by a little after nine o'clock. That's still on the conservative side for a 10:30 start time. When we arrived at an already packed Bottleneck at 9:45 I chastised Dana mercilessly and we paid our $20 to get in.
Who knew The Shins were so popular? Where did all these kids even hear of The Shins? Were they all at The Granada when the Shins opened for Modest Mouse? Do The Shins have a video on M2 that I've just yet to see? Did Sassy or Seventeen put them on a "cute band" alert of some sort? Finding Ryan and Beck at a table midway back gave me some dose of reality and with those wits I loaded the film into my camera and prepared to push forward for shots of the opening band already mid-set.
My first impression of Clockwork had nothing to do with their prog-leaning, indie noir stylings or a comment on the shirts and ties worn by the band, I was instead distracted their age. These kids are young. Like too-young-to-get-into-the-Bottleneck young. Like too-young-to-tour young. Or even too-young-to-play-out-on-a-school-night young. For the first several minutes my keen observational skills were dedicated to that singular thought and then the related realization that everyone in attendance was young. Is this what eighteen years old looks like now days? Am I that old that I can confuse an eighteen year old kid for a fourteen year old one? Am I no better than R. Kelly? Luckily I found out that this was an all-ages show before I found myself in the middle of a nasty lawsuit.
Once the age thing was resolved, and I was able to get past the wonder of keyboardist/vocalist Patrick Roberts' white-boy afro, the band began to get under my skin. This Lawrence three-piece consists of bassist/vocalist Hugh Naughtin, Roberts, and drummer/guitarist Jim Piller. An occasionally drum machine filled in for Piller and other times would be used to augment his straightforward drumming style. In those moments, and others containing found-sound samples, their craft nodded to the layered instrumentation of namelessnumberheadman. Generally though the band played it much closer to the vest, much thinner, and focused on melody.
While Clockwork drew a large fan base of (under aged) admirers, San Francisco's Track Star were seemingly more interested in alienating potential fans. After being tipped off by a friend who had seen the band the night before, I decided I'd join the band in their sociological experiment and see what would become of it.
In phase one the band played their first song only to ask the club to change the lights so they could try it again. At the end of that song they requested the lights be turned down entirely after some fussing about the colorings. Maybe red only, no blue here, red there. Oh wait I think green. I hope the light guy was in on it as well.
The audience seemed oblivious while the band continued to play troublesome rock stars. Track Star began asking the audience about every detail of their set: "Did that chorus come off okay?" "Is the bass loud enough?" and further dropping down to "Sorry we're not very good." The more jaded drunks in back began to tune out the band at that point. The kids up front, however, started offering helpful support back to the band telling them that they were doing "just fine." Ah youth. No one really seemed to turn on the band as I assumed they would.
The highlight of the set might have been a single drum part the band thought they should revisit four or five times because it was so cool. I contributed by hollering out that time five wasn't all that hot, and maybe they should try again. They obliged and the audience began to stare at me. When I told the drummer that he was just "phoning it in", the band ran their drummer through his paces again. The kid's stares became more accusatory as if to say I was an ogre for picking on this obviously self-conscious band. Of course the band picked up on it and played to those sympathies. It was all very entertaining and very Tony Clifton. Oh yeah and the band plays indie rock with a strong pop leaning. They don't do that quite as well.
Luckily The Shins didn't come with the same shtick, but they did take a stab at the same indie-rock-with-strong-pop-leanings, and they did do it better. While the delicate nature of much of their recorded material earns them fair comparisons to the twee sect, live the band was much more focused on rock. Twinkling keyboards were nearly lost in a guitar that seemed to drive much more than it should have. Maybe that is what a live show should be, but I could have used a little more of the fey boy-pop. Other than that I can't tell you much. It wasn't magical or memorable, just a pleasant use of an evening.