I walked in to the Jackpot Saloon just in time to see the last song of some guys playing indie rock dressed in NASCAR jumpsuits.
Why, it’s openers Dale Earnhart Jr. Jr., of course. Two juniors is better than one. Duh.
Next up were the once critical darlings, Tapes ‘n Tapes. Any hipster worth his weight in mustache wax would tell you that Tapes’ earlier stuff was waaay better than their next two albums. That the band sold out when they went to big label XL Recordings. And that after their second album was critically panned, now the band is trying to get their cred back by doing what made them cool in the first place – staying independent and doing their own thing.
Tapes ‘n Tapes took the stage kind of early compared to some national acts that roll through town – probably about 10:45 or so. And they would have started earlier if not for some issues with the sound system. Something about a blown fuse, feedback, malfunctioning mics, and more feedback. Nevertheless, their sound guy wrangled the board sufficiently, and got the show going, though it was pretty obvious that the situation wasn’t ideal, both onstage and in the front of house.
As frontman Josh Grier said, "Sometimes you come to the Jackpot and you hit the jackpot, and sometimes you come to the Jackpot and you don’t hit the jackpot. Either way, you probably want to hear less of me and more rock."
So on the band forged.
No worries, though. Tapes ‘n Tapes made up for the sonic deficiencies with an energetic set that left the near capacity crowd satisfied enough, starting with the uptempto funny song, "Beach Girls." How could the crowd resist when the song’s hook is nothing more than a party-on, "Woooooo Woooooo Wooooooo"? Not a chance.
A few songs in, the main thing I noticed about this band was their rhythmic features – chunky syncopated guitar combined with original back beat drumming. Combined with oddly metered vocal stanzas and half shouted sing along choruses. At times it kind of brought to mind some of the more indie sounding Vampire Weekend tracks, but without the "weird for the sake of being weird" thing going on. And much more "rock" sounding as well.
Drummer Jeremy Hanson slid around very ably between hard hitting straight up rock thumping, and the distinctively odd beats that permeate some Tapes’ songs. But again, he did so in a natural way, not a "indie rock band move" way.
For my money, Jeremy is why I’d pay to see these guys next time. On a night when the vocals ended up buried, and the knife fight between feedback and the sound guy ended in a draw, the drummer had to pick up some slack. And he did. Nicely.
Toward the end of the set it seemed like the band had settled in a bit, or figured out the nuances of the Jackpot, maybe, and delivered some real quality. Tapes are really good at building on a progression, making it a little psychedelic or something, throwing in some crazy whirling, hectic racing, racing, and then smack right into a melodic chorus. A couple songs even contained some sparse trumpet lines, that provided a nice different sound to the mix.
The more I listen to this band the more I like this band. Their music is a sort of best-of-both-worlds type of bridge between indie and rock. Very accessible and relatable, yet still just weird enough or quirky enough to be a little different. Yet very original. But in an accessible way.
Now, that doesn’t really make sense, does it? Give them a listen and you’ll see what I mean.