Donnelly: Cage the Elephant & Night the Buzz Stole X-Mas at Midland

I tried to weasel my way into the second tier where the plush couches, drink tables, and waitresses make me feel like I set up the show, more important than the groundlings…

But a veteran usher was on to my act.

No worries, there wasn’t a bad seat in the house  Monday for the first installment of 96.5’s the Night the Buzz Stole X-mas at the Midland by AMC

The lineup featured Jimmy Eat World, Free Energy, the Dirty Heads, and Cage the Elephant ( the band I was most excited to see).

The night started out with the light and poppy Free Energy. 

The band took the stage shortly after 7pm and immediately ran into some technical difficulties.  "Does anyone out there have an amp?" asked lead singer Paul Spranger.  After taking a few questions from the audience, like, "How long did it take for you to grow that awesome ‘stache?" the amp problem was fixed, and Free Energy played through a fairly quick thirty minutes of groove rock.  Decent energy and musicianship, with songs that are young beyond their years.    

In the two slot was Cage the Elephant. 

If Free Energy gave the crowd a big hug, Cage came out swinging with wild roundhouses. Their two guitars buzzed with trademark Gibson bite while lead singer, Matt Schultz rag-dolled around the stage screaming like he didn’t care who was in the room… in a good way.  

Cage is a traditional “alternative" band, whatever that means these days.  To me, it means early ’90s alternative.  They have two guitars, drums, bass, and a singer/screamer.  Normally, the singer/screamer thing turns me off, but for some reason, when Schultz howls it seems real and fitting.  

Certain songs in the short but intense set brought to mind Nirvana as a definite influence, with the typical soft-soft-loud layout and Schultz opening with thin, reedy vocals then exploding into Cobain-like throat thrashing.  The crowd was into it as the Kentucky band busted into one of their singles, "Back Against the Wall."  

96.5 The Buzz has done a good job of hitting the bands it hires with plenty of airtime, so it was a shame the Midland wasn’t more full.  But hey, it’s a Monday night at 7pm

Time to dance.   

Cage rolled through its too short set with throwback sound from Bush leading to a Beatles-infused intro and going back to the tried and true, soft verse loud chorus formula.  And it was fairly convincing.

By the time the band decided to offer up their heaviest played song on 96.5, "Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked," I knew the format of the Night the Buzz Stole X-Mas was not going to allow for enough Cage the Elephant to settle the crowd.  Hopefully the momentum Cage has created continues rolling through the January release of their sophomore effort, "Thank You, Happy Birthday." 

If they happen through KC again, they are a can’t miss.   

Thirty minutes later the Dirty Heads took the stage and mellowed the mood with 311/Sublime tunes, and finishing with another heavy hitter in the Buzz’s rotation, "Lay Me Down."  

The headliners, Jimmy Eat World were killed in a plane crash and could not appear.

Or my date convinced me to leave early.  She’s convincing.  

(Or I had to work in the morning and didn’t see JEW.  Damn.)

Night two of the Buzz’s annual holiday concert is Wednesday night, again at the Midland, and features My Chemical Romance, Innerpartysystem, A Day to Remember, and the Beautiful Bodies.
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