The Back Pockets
With Weird Wives, the Dewars, and the Band in Heaven
Propaganda, Lake Worth
Wednesday, January 5, 2010
Countless locals who couldn't wait until the weekend to play in oncoming traffic were in attendance for a befuddling Wednesday night at Propaganda. Not to say that any of this was unexpected.
The Back Pockets were the obvious, spectacular draw of the evening. At least a dozen strong, the Atlanta troupe packed the entire stage with giant plush bananas, bags of toffee, and, er, instruments for its performance. This was Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros modeling a line of adult diapers (eat your heart out, Of Montreal), or CocoRosie's family reunion, take your pick.
As for the music itself, it was merciless and tight. Banjo and keyboard player Emily Kempf sat or stood atop her amplifier at the center of the maelstrom of twisted youth and seemed in complete control for the entire evening. Although it might be easy to focus too hard on the possibly chemical-enhanced hugging, thrashing tantrums in the crowd, and brushes with wardrobe malfunctions, this is a band camp experiment gone particularly right from the perspective of a listener. Will there be another folk act with machine gun drums and rippling feedback sweeping from the banjo amp, we hope not, because this is the only one we need. For the final bacchanalian number of the set, the Back Pockets handed out drumsticks (not the edible kind) and got the crowd snapping them together along for the droning, hypnotic closer.
Boy, but did this level of weirdness set the bar high for the Weird Wives, the final act of the night. With only the drum set on the stage, and the remainder of the West Palm Beach noise-punk outfit in the crowd, the intensity was bubbling over so much that drummer Marcos Marchesani busted his kick drum pedal one song into the set, and proceeded to lay waste to the entire bass drum he was dealt for the evening. After a long, feedback-soaked wait, the barrage of "Sativa Diva" brought a momentary focus to a disorienting and chaotic set. Frontman Nick Klein performed a good portion of it standing on the bar while knocking down anything in his path, standing behind the bar and swigging the well bottles of booze, and pressing his bare belly on any other surface Propaganda had to offer.
It was big, somewhat dumb, and the deafening roar from guitarist Thomas Fekete and bassist Brian Black was close to the least voluminous of it all -- considering the blistering energy flying every which way. As a fan of the band (particularly its mesmerizing performance on Halloween), it's safe to say that this was not the tightest performance of Weird Wives' career. But it could have been the fiercest.
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The Crowd: Some folks with greasy hair. Members of Surfer Blood, Guy Harvey, the Jameses, the Clementines, Sumsun, Viva Le Vox, among others. Revelers.
Random Detail: During a trip to the men's room before the Back Pockets began their set, one member of the troupe was using the urinal next to me -- in spite of his adult diaper.
Random Detail 2: A girl wearing a rubber ducky flotation device around her waist accidentally kicked me in the stomach as she was hoisted up during the madness of the Back Pockets. Turns out she agressively sells merch for them when she doesn't have a pacifier in her mouth.
Personal Bias: This was probably one of the finest shows -- visually, sound-wise, and gut-wise -- I've ever seen at Propaganda. The review doesn't even touch the virtuosity displayed by shoegaze-garage rock act Band in Heaven earlier in the evening. Singer Ates Isildak was correct in his assertion that it was "the best we've ever sounded," from the interplay between him and keyboardist-vocalist Lauren Dwyer, the highly focused squelch out of the amp, and a cameo by Surfer Blood's J.P. Pitts on drums. As well, the Dewars dealt a fleshed-out, polished set that wasn't derailed for a second by a broken guitar string. Clearly, extensive touring has molded these gents into a preeminent live act for South Florida or anywhere, for that matter.