18 February 2007

pan the riot

seems like as good a time as any to talk about going to see some local bands play last night. a fair amount to think about; i'll try to think it quick though as it's late late late. went to danger danger, a nexus of the local underground/diy music community, for the first night of their aquarius fest. i only ended up seeing three bands, as i was offered a ride home at that point and my other friends were leaving or not coming; that was okay, though i was curious to see if the rest of the bands would be in a similar vein or if there would be more variety for the rest of the night. the ones i saw were probably the ones i was most interested in: bear is driving, who are friends of mine, but whom i haven't seen perform in a long time; grandchildren, who i've been hearing about for a while (and are friends of matt, who used to live in the house - as do all the members of grandchildren), and normal love, who i think matt said are his favorite philly band.

all three, i would say, played progressive rock music; or progressive punk rock might be even more apt. bear is driving have a harder, metal-ish edge, and normal love are extremely abstract and have a violinist (and play written-out compositions - i could barely see through the crowd but i did make out sheet music on a stand in front of the drummer, which is impressive.) grandchildren were a little harder to get a sense of - they were the most song-oriented of the three (the only one with vocals, but they were almost impossible to make out), though not everything they played was very song-like. in general, all three groups had a pretty similar musical approach; complex, mathy, aggressive, guitar-heavy, fairly abstract and non-melodic.

i liked it - i mean, i enjoyed myself - BiD were definitely my favorite, and had the most distinctive and memorable pieces; the compositions are intense but accessible, with fun mathy polyrhythms and some very powerful grooves. they're also extremely tight and technically exciting players (and they just sounded better than the other groups, which was probably not the other groups' fault, considering the circumstances of the show.) grandchildren i had been expecting to be more folky, and they weren't at all (although their myspace songs are); i feel like they didn't come across very well in that setting, but they still rocked out pretty well. normal love were a disappointment; to some extent they're just not my style, but i think it was also not the best environment in which to appreciate them (particularly not being able to see them.) i hadn't realized it would be that abstract and aggressive.

anyway. i know that not all of the other bands playing at the fest were as much in the progressive/math camp as those three, although i imagine a lot of them were more or less punk, probably quite a few were fairly aggressive, and not many were very poppy. that's just my assumption. and that's okay. i don't necessarily think that the danger danger folks have any illusions about booking a truly wide range of acts - but i do also think there are some (probably largely unspoken) limitations to what kinds of groups are likely to be accepted in that community. for example, i've never really heard about any singer-songwriters or similarly-oriented bands playing at danger danger or any of the similar houses in west philly (though to be fair i'm not hugely aware of what's going on in that scene.)

i don't mean to put this just on the people who book the shows - i'm sure there are similar self-imposed limitations set by the people that would think about forming bands and wanting to play in this scene. (i'm also not condemning any of this - i definitely don't have a firm basis for doing that, but i'm not particularly interested in doing so anyway.) but it would be interesting to think more about this phenomenon and its ramifications. (apparently there's somebody at penn writing his grad thesis about danger danger.) in some ways, i guess it's a little disappointing that an independent, youth-based, community-oriented music scene would have their primary focus on a relatively narrow range of musical styles, since they have the freedom to set the parameters as wide as they want (whereas more established musical outlets, beholden to sales and marketing concerns, would have less freedom.) punk rock is the foundation of - and synonymous with - the DIY tradition, but nothing says it has to always stay that way, especially now that the generally held conceptions about genre that fomented and undergirded punk at its outset have been almost completely exploded.

anyway... one of the local bands that was not among the twenty-several acts on the bill for the aquarius festival is panda riot, whom i mentioned a little while back. i like them a lot - on the basis of having listened to their cd a bunch of times and knowing them pretty tangentially. it's not hard to peg them as indie/shoegaze (though the triphop/portishead references are way off, drum machine and chick singer notwithstanding.) they call themselves dream-pop/swirl-pop i'd said that the cocteau twins are the best point of reference, but maybe it's mbv after all - i'll need to go listen to my ct albums again and reconsider. it's kind of uncanny how accurately they channel the sound of the early nineties - more so when i actually think about it, since otherwise i might assume that that would be some kind of "default" setting for bands to sound like, since it was what they sounded like as i was coming of age and shortly thereafter. in fact, it must be extremely intentional - and since not nearly as many bands are doing that as you would expect - or at least, i don't come into contact with many (which i guess is not surprise)... - i think it's pretty cool of them.

not sure which is my favorite track on their disc: song 3 is pretty sweet, and the one about andy warhol is catchy, though the best half-hook is probably the one that goes "hey! lookout" (though the rest of the chorus after that is not as good.) and the opener does this really sexy (very cocteau twins-y) disembodied vocal loop thing at the end and for a split second at the beginning (unless it's a synth that sounds like a vocal)

8 ["yours was the face on the tip of my tongue"]  panda riot

but this is the one that seemed most appropriate for valentimes, even though i'm not 100% sure it's a happy love song and not a regretful or sarcastic or ironic one. but that repeated line (i'm not sure what the title is) is simultanously dirty and sweet enough to be exile-era liz phair. and rebecca's vox really do sound like an early, bored (yes, pre-sellout) liz.

sometimes genre can be your friend.

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