With Band in Heaven, the Dewars, Fevers
Respectable Street, West Palm Beach
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Better than: Crocodiles' live experience circa 2009.
Although the term postpunk is abhorrent, it's useful to capture the live feel of San Diego glam-garage rock outfit Crocodiles. Singer Brandon Welchez and guitarist Charles Rowell, a couple of visceral fellows who used to scrape and claw through primal, avant-hardcore measures as the Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, could be painted as a couple of dudes who have mellowed with age. About as much as Mel Gibson has, perhaps.
Each of Saturday's support bands proved to build up portions of a similar
sinister and/or noisy wall on a night rumored to feature a real "rapture."
Fevers splattered a wealth of different styles on the evening's early arrivals. Ranting frontman Christian Humphries sang "I can't function well" but arguably kept his band focused during a set that seemed ready to storm off the rails in a variety of directions. If alt-heavies like Hüsker Dü or Helmet had ever thrown keyboards in the mix, here's where they might have ended up.
With a pair of sets out on the Respectable Street patio, the Dewars kept things Rapture-appropriate. They referred to the wide expanse of bricks in front of the stage as a pool of lava (prompting two foolhardy onlookers to stand right in it!) and sang what might be the catchiest folk-rock song about a mall shooting ever penned. Of course "If the World Was Gonna End Today" figured in too.
Note: West Palm's shoegaziest, the Band in Heaven should always perform in all-white. Covering one of the creepiest songs ever set to tape, Q Lazzarus' "Goodbye Horses" (popularized in The Silence of the Lambs), might have caused some momentary levitation in the room.
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As for our headliners, the psychedelic slab of "Neon Jesus" was the closest this performance came to any sort of Biblical imagery. The wiry, doe-eyed Welchez took command of the stage immediately and showed how perpetual motion is supposed to enrapture an audience. With his stick-thin legs bending to sharp angles and pointing every direction, a six-foot-by-six-foot stretch of floor became his compact box for preening, strutting, and wrapping the mic with his T-shirt. Lead guitarist Rowell's spiky blond locks make him look oddly like the mischievous Brit actor Malcolm McDowell as he built a gritty squall beside Welchez.
A couple of years back, Welchez and Rowell had definitely solidified the
studio feel of the Crocodiles. There would be fuzz, riffs, and enough
dark imagery to send a careful listener into a cave of tumultuous
emotion. The guys seem far more at ease onstage now that they can spend more time lathering up a crowd than triggering drum tracks for "I Wanna Kill." And it's a joy to see that their backing players -- bassist Marco Gonzalez, drummer Alianna Kalaba, and keyboardist (and able backing vocalist) Robin Eisenberg -- have filled out every song to its expansive peak.
What surely comes from a punk background is the need to transfer energy from the stage to the participants. In addition to all the hip-shaking, the Crocodiles did it with sheer volume, tight playing, and a never-ending discharge of reverb. Even if no spirits left the building, they certainly were passed around the room.
The crowd: Smaller than it would have been had the Crocodiles not played in Miami the night before. One guy was throwing his fists but not pumping them.
Random detail: A Dewars T-shirt was draped on Rowell's amp for their performance, and Welchez repeated how impressed he was with the brothers a number of times afterward.
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Overheard: Absolutely nothing from New Times Calendar Editor Michelle Centrone, who remained completely tranfixed while the Crocodiles played.