(Editors Note : Please welcome a new contributor to the ENS team in MaryKate Moran. MaryKates first assingment was this Mondays Royal Bangs show, check out her thoughts below and follow her on twitter for more insight.)
It might have been a frigid Monday night, but you wonâ€™t have known that from inside Northside Tavern. The backroom, while no where near capacity, was busy with music fans who could not believe their good luck: a free show from buzz band that was actually good enough to drag them out into a snowy evening.
Starting off the night was opening band Life Like, which has an especially fitting name. Everything they played sounded like something, a certain band or song, but never anything you could put your finger on at the time. While proficient players, they sound like a band thatâ€™s still trying to find its sound. With just a guitar, bass and drums, the instrumentation occasionally built toward something with Prog Rock leanings, but the formless vocals deflated all progress. At times they were even reminiscent of Hum, but were too murky, and without the romantic spark that made Hum work. Playing with Royal Bangs made for curious billing, but itâ€™ll be interesting to see how they grow.
But there was, however, nothing murky about Royal Bangs. Loud, fuzzy, sure, but not murky. From the first song of their set it was full-steam ahead. The Tavernâ€™s stage didnâ€™t give them enough room to dance â€“ though it didnâ€™t stop them from trying â€“ but the size of the room was just right, the pulsating washes of sound nearly acting as a cocoon. It was the perfect antidote to the cabin fever so many Cincinnatians had been fighting in the days prior. Brandon Biondo occasionally switched out his guitar for the extra drums onstage and, along with drummer Chris Rusk, underscored the bandâ€™s propelling, no-tomorrow urgency.
This is a band that doesnâ€™t let anything simmer. On their albums, but most especially live, theyâ€™re aggressive with the first note. Every instrument lashes out without elbowing each other out of the way, somehow making room for Indie and Garage Rock while still playing nice with Electronica. At times, they sounded a little like Passion Pit, if Passion Pit stopped being precious and was looking to start a fight.
There wasnâ€™t a slow song in the set, and lead singer Ryan Schaefer let reverb and programmed loops carry the show from one song to another instead of interacting with the crowd. But he didnâ€™t need to. Confident and danceable, they turned even the most noncommittal spectators into dancers. If they werenâ€™t dancing to begin with, â€œMy Car is Hauntedâ€ in the latter half of the set broke that last barrier and got the whole crowd moving.
The night ended with the band erupting into â€œBrother,â€ a version even more manic and charging than the one on 2008â€™s We Breed Champions. There was no time to leave the stage before calls for one more song brought them back out for â€œBroke Calculator,â€ which was just what the crowd wanted to hear. It might be a lie, but itâ€™s nice to end a night of drunken dancing with a chorus of â€œIâ€™ve got my act together.â€