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.
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.