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Monday, March 19, 2007

Emo Nostalgia

posted by on March 19 at 13:13 PM

Bow + Arrow

90s nostalgia is undeniably big right now. Having exhausted the 80s with the early 00s’ plundering of electro and post-punk, we’ve now moved on to New Rave (et tu, Björk?) and maybe even a second coming of honest pre-Myspace emo. Not the eyeliner-and-bombast mall punk, but the kind of scrappy stuff that flourished on labels like Jade Tree and Polyvinyl in the midto late 90s. It makes sense that this would happen. Kids who were listening to these bands as teenagers (often after the fact—Cap’n’Jazz and Braid were both more accesible via posthumous collections than they were through proper releases) are now old enough to get their own bands together and book shows, and it’s great to see the genre and its history being reclaimed on a DIY level and wrested back from the likes of Def Jam.

This weekend I caught an all-ages show at a Capitol Hill warehouse space that must remain nameless for the time being, but let me just say that I love seeing music in such odd, thrown-together spaces. I like the sense of collective rather than strictly commercial effort—somebody gets the PA, somebody works the door, and everybody volunteers to help out. I like the feeling that you’re getting away with something sneaky, even if it’s completely benign.

Two of the four bands playing this Saturday night are seriously indebted to the music I mention above. Opening band Beestings suggest the slower moments of the Promise Ring’s first record, but without any of their pulse-quickening pop. The band is relatively young, and they have an endearingly clumsy stage presence—their singer had a broken arm in cast but was still playing guitar, they stopped one song after their drummer insisted that it sounded awful only to realize they’d forgotten to switch tunings. The affable drummer, Greg, explains that they play slow songs because he’s “not a good enough drummer for us to play fast.” Maybe, but their slow songs sound just fine (when they’re in tune), even the drumming.

Bow + Arrow have changed a little bit since we covered them as part of our Young Ones feature a few months back. They’ve added a fourth man on bass and circuit-bent speak & spell (a personal favorite instrument), and they’ve become a pretty tight live act, even when working out new songs from the day’s earlier rehearsals. Like Beestings, Bow & Arrow obviously grew up listening to their share of earnest post-hardcore, but they tend towards the rougher edges of that sound, referencing and refreshing the likes of Cap’n’Jazz, Drive Like Jehu, and Unwound, as well as some of the Ebullition roster. These guys are probably far too ethical to ever enjoy much success as a band (one of them is rumored to be the “leader” of the hierarchical, authoritarian SeattleDIY “collective”), but if they don’t blow up in 2007 it certainly won’t be from lack of talent.

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I thought this was going to be a link to Emo Phillips. Thanks a lot! Now I can't get his sing-songy falsetto voice out of my head, saying things like: "My girlfiend said to me in bed last night, 'You're a pervert.' I said, 'That's a big word for a girl of nine'."

Posted by Blammo! | March 19, 2007 4:04 PM

You should see the royalty checks Phillips gets from Dischord. Dude is basically set for life.

Posted by Eric Grandy | March 19, 2007 4:14 PM

Without being anywhere near an expert on the subject, I remember thinking the 90s wave of emo was itself a bizarre retrieval of a dead eighties genre which had itself lasted no more than a couple of years and as many bands (Embrace, Rites of Spring, Happy Go Licky, maybe King Face). As with ska, the revivals were exponentially bigger than the original (and as with ska, you're embarrassed to have ever listened to it from basically the moment you finish school.)

Posted by Eric F | March 19, 2007 5:41 PM

No way, other Eric. I am totally ashamed of having ever liked ska (even Engine 54--ska from Olympia, what was I thinking?), but I will go to the critical mat for Cap'n'Jazz, Promise Ring, and Braid. Yeah, they weren't from the original Revolution Summer in DC, but they still roughly expressed the aesthetic and ideological values of the original movement, which is more than can be said of the current crop of "emo" mtv hair bands.

Posted by Eric Grandy | March 19, 2007 5:50 PM

No one needs to be ashamed of the ska they liked if it was Two Tone era.

Posted by Matt from Denver | March 19, 2007 7:24 PM

I really do think we have at least half a decade left of the '80s revival, even if it was exhausted ages ago.

Posted by Fawkes | March 20, 2007 12:06 AM

Thanks for the shout out, Eric.

You can put aside the "rumor" status - I'm the tyrannical ruler of the anarcho-terrorist organization, SeattleDIY. Come to our potluck/picnic/talent show on saturday, or face the DIY JIHAD!

Posted by Benji | March 20, 2007 3:27 PM

I just want to go ahead and say Bow+Arrow as a four piece are my favorite local band of 2007. hands down. they put on an amazing show.

Posted by PK | March 20, 2007 11:45 PM

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