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Friday, January 21, 2011

Royal Bangs Hold a Half-Full S.F. Coming Out Party at Rickshaw Stop

Posted By on Fri, Jan 21, 2011 at 9:53 AM

Royal Bangs last night at Rickshaw Stop
  • Royal Bangs last night at Rickshaw Stop
Royal Bangs

Foster the People

January 20, 2011

@ Rickshaw Stop

Better than: Southern Rock at any point in time.

If last night's Royal Bangs show was one of those we-saw-them-way-back-when nights, it was also a we-walked-out-on-them-way-back-when night for half the Rickshaw Stop crowd. Pity be their name.

The freshest gold out of Knoxville might have scared off the incurious with ear-piercing guitars and a general inclination toward the loud. But polished synths, heavy hooks, and an assured vocalist should give this band some staying power in the years to come.

Once a five-piece and now a trio, the Bangs still sound like a fivesome. Theirs is a muscular mix of jangly keyboard noise, fretting percussion, and sugary, schizophrenic guitar.

Oh, and there's much more to be said of the guitar work by Royal Bangs' Sam Stratton. It was like he had picked up one of those Guitar Center axes set to "idiot-proof," or set to A.C. Newman. He wasn't soloing as much as he was finger-dancing with chords, electrically electric.

Lead singer/multi-instrumentalist Ryan Schaefer led the band's all-business appeal for respect and stage maintenance (can a brotha get a cable?). He also seems to be the instigator of some of the band's more experimental turns, almost like Yes' Jon Anderson. Vocally, he takes swings at referential points such as Thin Lizzy and Julian Casablancas, but there's an edge to the whole sound that makes most references seem dated.

There's also a rough-hewn, grainy quality to the sound, which may explain the subconscious link to the Black Keys (Keys member Patrick Carney signed the band to his Audio Eagle label). The track "War Bells" captures all that garage reverb casualness, which translates seamlessly to the stage. "My Car is Haunted," also off 2009's Let it Beep, stews about in that same reverb, but also makes collage a swarm of keys and pitter-pattering jolts.

If you align with skill-heavy bands like Late of the Pier or Fang Island, be told these are their brethren. We fear clever, concept-forward rock such as this has few places to swim in the less-is-more realm of contemporary pop, but maybe next time S.F. can at least do 'em proper and keep the Rickshaw hall filled 'til midnight. 

Foster the People: Perhaps some of the aforementioned main act ambivalence had something to do with the sharp disco exhaustiveness of the night's sole opener (which was bookended by two DJ sets). This L.A. five-piece built dance breakdowns in unorthodox ways, and its happy-go-lucky riffs degenerated into head-down bursts of jamming.

Foster the People
  • Foster the People
FTP's "Come Back Down" is a strong entry, replete with dual jungle drumming (aided by dynamic lead-singer Mark Foster) and disco drama befitting of names like Passion Pit and MGMT. Single "Pumped Up Kicks," free of tricky studio manipulation, took on a more rockin' presence at Rickshaw. But it never escaped the sagging lull of the main verse.

A little more instrumental risk might be a wise move for Foster the People. The band seemed to have a grasp on a range of pop techniques, but juxtaposed with the complexity of the Royal Bangs sound, there was little to dissect.

Overheard in the crowd: "If I didn't have a boyfriend right now I would definitely (inaudible)..."

"All you need for a band are three things: a synth, a singer, and a build up."

"Takeo Spikes" -- doorman, when asked who my favorite S.F. 49er of all-time was, after accusing an East Bay fan of being phony, or whatever.


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