"You're lucky to have such a nice sounding theatre," was the call from Beep Beep as they opened last night's triple bill at La Tulipe, also featuring TV on the Radio and The Faint. And indeed, the converted cabaret hall is a great looking and a great sounding venue. We grabbed some great seats on the balcony, center-stage, to take in the show. A promising night, considering The Faint and TV have released two of the best albums this year.
Beep Beep were new to me. The most exciting opening acts are those the headliners tote around the continent with them, hoping to introduce the new band to eager ears. The Faint picked up the fellow Omaha-band Beep Beep for this tour. Beep Beep wrenched out a short set of post-rock screamers. The only trace of Omaha was a harmonica, but it was distorted and screaming. In fact, the two lead-singers screamed, their guitars screamed and their synths screamed, and the whole lot screamed Dismemberment Plan (we shall mourn the loss of this classic band no more). The boys flounced about the stage, writhing as they wrung out the raw, chaotic music. The lead-guitarist's stylish nerd-glasses were smartly fastened to his head with an elastic band. By the end of their set I was bouncing the notebook off my lap. The best sort of opening act is a surprising music recommendation from the band you've come to see.
TV on the Radio, four uber-hip black guys and a token, indie-rock white guy-again with the Buddy Holly-style geek glasses-took the stage to a packed La Tulipe–the last hundred of the 600 tickets sold to stragglers at the door. We had caught their sound-check earlier in the evening, eavesdropping on their conversations and lead singer Tunde Adebimpe's pitch-perfect a capella warm-up. We heard that at the previous show in Boston a mic stand was broken, and they had to shell $15 out to replace it. A good omen. We heard that their soundman was nicknamed "blowjob" and that the bassist was caught jerking off, despite the fact the keys were jangled in the door as a warning. "I get off on getting caught," was his reply. Coincidentally (or not?) he spent the entire show with his back to the crowd. They opened with "Ambulance"-barbershop dum-dum-dums, whistling refrains, and Adebimpe's soulful vocals: "I will be your ambulance, if you will be my accident, and I will be your screech and crash, if you will be my crutch and cast." And leave it to the white-guy, with his bright green shirt tucked into his black pants, to top off the whole number with some stunning beat-boxing. The band played a short set, rifling through their 2004 release "Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes", dedicating "Bomb Yourself" to "our newest ex-president". They played louder and faster than they did in the studio, and they were clapped and cheered out of leaving the stage before taking an encore. They closed with "Young Liars," spinning it into a ranting, soulful wall of sound, all of the members shouting the lyrics into the mics or to themselves. Adebimpe clutched his brow, shouting up through the roof as the lead-guitarist fell to his knees and the white guy rocked off his glasses.
As the stage was stripped down and set up for The Faint, the anticipation simmered through the packed dance floor. Every technician that entered the stage snapped the audience to attention. Screens and video projectors were set, the dry ice tested, and four towering mics were placed in front of a crowd that was readying for a lewd, sexy, smarmy spectacle. The Faint entered, the crowd roared, and the title-track of their new album "Wet From Birth" struck up, accompanied by a video-a sort of live music video perfectly synchronized with the music. Todd Baechle sang, "In the beginning there was semen," as his bandmates danced and thrusted on stage and Marilyn Monroe mouthed the lyrics above them. A uterus flashed on one screen and a rocket launched on the other, the Faint being no suckers for subtlety. Baechle was smirking, his tongue either firmly planted in his cheek, or mimicking a blowjob. The Faint are the type of pelvis-punching Rock and Roll band that sends conservatives to the censors. They played "Erection," which details the finer points of, well, erections, while above them monster trucks trashed through cars and water towers crashed to the ground in reverse. As Baechle sang "it boiled up like a tower… a monument in the park," a computer built the (gasp) twin towers up from scratch-a perfect "fuck off" to sentimentality or the sweetest ode to the greatest of downed phalluses. "I wish you could vote against Bush," preceded "Paranoia," as crashing synths fired and CNN anchormen sang along. I, among many others, was rattled out of my seat down to the dance floor in time to shout "Paranoia! Paranoia!" And everyone danced, breathed down each other's necks and I stopped taking notes.