Sunday night's No Age / Titus Andronicus / Soft Circle show at the Gargoyle drew out about 60 polite indie rockers who morphed from golf-clapping students into pogoing (and at least one stagediving) dance-punks.
No Age specializes in driving, punk songs with an electric sheen over them. Their show last night had minor snafus (notably on the opening song of the set over a drum set malfunction) but stayed true to the records that populate eBay.
I imagine when there are only two members to a band -- and the instrumentation comes from samples, electric guitar, effects pedals and a drum set -- it's fairly easy to recreate the sounds of your record while playing out.
The duo of Dean Spunt, drums and vocals, and Randy Randall, guitar, whipped up the slim (in terms of the crowd size and the size of individual members of the crowd, God don't they feed those students?) crowd into a frenzy -- possibly the reason why a few St. Louis Police Department officers were milling about toward the end of the show.
The band opened with "Teen Creeps," its latest single off Nouns, the band's Sub Pop Records debut and first full-length after putting out a string of limited vinyl seven-inches. As Vice Magazine astutely noted, the band became the unlikely objects of a bidding war by record labels who wanted to put out this hyped band's full-length record.
So, in its first show in St. Louis, No Age lived up to the hype, putting on a sweaty, energetic show filled with songs from Nouns, as well as a few off those earlier singles (compiled into the Weirdo Rippers release.) Spunt and Randall have performed in St. Louis once before, although it as members of the now-defunct noise/hardcore band Wives. Spunt asked the crowd if anyone had been to the Lemp Arts Center, to which he got a mild response.
"It was in 2003 or 2004," Spunt said of that Wives show after No Age's set ended. "There were three people there, maybe four. It was awesome."
They also covered "Sex Beat" by The Gun Club and threw in a few new songs.
As is the case with a lot of stage banter by performing bands at the Gargoyle, there were the perfunctory mentions of studying, schoolwork and getting up early. No Age were no exception, using the academic setting to introduce "Cappo," a loud, uplifting song, as one that should be played on early morning shows on college radio stations.
The "hit" for No Age is "Eraser," for which they have already recorded a music video. During the song last night, Randall strummed the bouncy chords in time with his steps into the audience, where he played the intro, surrounded by jumping and clapping fans. The video below is my attempt to capture this:
New Jersey's Titus Andronicus played the middle slot, but seemed out-of-place on the bill with its straight-ahead rock 'n' roll.
Hisham Akira Bharoocha makes up the one-man electronic looping and drum force known as Soft Circle. You may know him from his time as Lightning Bolt's singer. Bharoocha's performance was a tightly wound mix of looped melody from an electronic drum pad, guitar loops and his on-point drumming at a four-piece set. Often the drums are in the backbeat, but a developing trend among electronic bands, especially those involved with or akin to LA's Smell scene is to put the drums front-and-center, as the organic, natural counterpart to the clusters of effects pedals and stacks of looping equipment.
Soft Circle's performances are a curious thing to a new fan: He taps out a melody on an electronic drum pad made to sound like a xylophone, then loops it. He does the same thing, only with an accompanying melody and loops that. He'll strum a few chords of his distorted guitar and loop that. When those three elements are going in a hypnotic round, he'll pound out the backbeat on his drum set, pulling it all together. Voila, you've got a song.
Although the show started late -- about 8:45 p.m. -- and I was left scratching my head out of wonder and frustration at another low turnout for a band that sells out venues in other cities, the performance by No Age captivated the crowd and turned mild-mannered music fans into dancing, sweaty partiers.