This night will always be remembered as the first time I heard the music of Crystal Antlers. They are just that good. The Antler's music is hard to describe, so experimental and original that it lingers somewhere between the lines of garage, lo-fi, progressive, punk, and neo-psychedelia – it's a frantic, beautiful frenzy of noise.
On stage, the sextet and their instruments look deceptively haphazard. With guitarists Andrew King and Errold Davis, organist Victor Rodriguez, drummers Kevin Stuart and Damien Edwards, and lead singer and basisst Jonny Bell all making up the band, there is certainly a lot going on. Playing in support of their debut full length, Tentacles, the Long Beach group instantly leaves me in a dizzying state of awe.
Their sound is instrumental-based, a multi-layered explosion of textured guitars, screeching feedback, drumrolls, and atmosphere. Edwards (a.k.a. Sexual Chocolate) plays his bongo set and cymbals with emphatic stage antics, twirling drum sticks and lip synching lyrics in a very charismatic manner. Lead singer Bell shouts out short vocals with a strained sense of desperation. His voice (which reminds me a little of Bill Baird from the now-defunct and little-known group Sound Team) is mostly undecipherable to me, but it didn't matter. With shrieks like this, it's not about the words themselves but the audible effect they have.
The band displays great musicianship and chemistry with their ability to start and stop on a dime in total unison during different tracks, but more impressive is the way they can build up a song with both slow rising subtlety and immense tension.
Their set was way too short, clocking in just over half an hour, and though not everyone at the Showbox seemed to embrace the Antlers as much as I did, they are certainly my new favorite band.
When Cold War Kids finally came on stage after a long break, the crowd's cheers were deafening. It was obvious that the majority of audience came for the sole purpose of seeing the Kids and were devoted fans of their more mainstream, melodic blues-infused rock.
What followed was like a group karoake session with the audience singing along to the bands lyrics during their many singles. The Kids' latest single, "Something is Not Right with Me" was a crowd pleaser, but everyone went beserk when they heard the first few notes of the band's first big hit, "Hang Me up to Dry".
Nathan Willet lead the songs with his wailing vocals and catchy, repetitive chorus lines. Though their band name, lyrics, and album titles of Cold War Kids are filled with historical and philosophical subtext, when they are playing a live show all of that fades away and the only question that matters is "do they sound good?" And the answer is yes. Even though a few of their lesser-known songs were unremarkable and somewhat dull filler, the hit songs were right on the mark and highly enjoyable.
They closed the set with "In Hospitals", returning for an encore with "We Used to Vacation" and "Saint John", the latter of which had Crystal Antler's drummer Damien joining in with a tambourine.
Overall both Cold War Kids and Crystal Antlers, with the former in the height of popularity and the latter displaying great promise, gave wonderful performances to a packed and energetic crowd for a very satisfying show.