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Friday, November 16, 2007

Say Hi To Your Mom, the Velvet Teen, the A-Sides @ the Croc

posted by on November 16 at 14:30 PM

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I only got to see the last few songs of Philly’s The A-Sides, which is too bad because I liked what I heard. They played energetic indie pop with a dancy beat and a hint of 60s Invasion Rock, which wasn’t mind-blowing, but they managed to do it in a tasteful way. Most importantly, the band looked like they were having a great time playing, which always makes a performance more enjoyable to watch.

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There’s been a lot of changes for the Velvet Teen over the last few years: original drummer Logan Whitehurst died of a brain tumor, bassist Josh Staples left to focus on his other band the New Trust, and every album the band has released has been a complete stylistic departure from the album before it. 2004’s Elysium had no electric guitar, only piano, and was comprised mostly of sweeping ballads. 2006’s Cum Laude used strange computer noises and distorted vocals to compliment amazingly crafted, guitar-driven indie rock songs. Singer/guitarist Judah Nagler is now the only original member, but he has found himself some impressive company to fill out the rest of his band. After unsuccessfully looking for a new bass player, he decided to take the spot himself and acquired Matthew Izen from Nor-Cal band Polar Bears to play guitar. He also enlisted Casey Deitz, drummer of the Chico band the Americas to drum (Deitz plays on Cum Laude, Izen joined after the album was released). Deitz is an amazing drummer, the kind who steals away a lot of the attention from the rest of the band when he is playing. His addition to the band gives them an explosive quality that they lacked before, but probably didn’t really needed before they started playing fast rock songs.

Their set was mostly numbers off of Cum Laude with a few older tunes from Out of the Fierce Parade sprinkled in. In several songs the band switched up the tempos and rhythms from the recordings making the songs sound like new tunes with the old lyrics: “Noi Boi” was slowed way down, the drum line in the verse of “Building a Whale” was switched from a blaring onslaught to a dancy hi-hat beat. Deitz bangs the drums like an absolute monster. He is one of the most impressive drummers in any band I’ve seen. Seeing him with the Velvet Teen is especially satisfying, as I am a much bigger fan of their songs than the Americas. New guitarist Izen was spot on, and Nagler’s voice was as strong and commanding as on the albums. The only frustrating part of the set was that it wasn’t long enough. The band played for less than 40 minutes, which is good etiquette for an opener, but they were the only band I really came to see.

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Part of me wanted to just leave after the Velvet Teen’s set because the headliners have got to have one of the stupidest names in music. Say Hi to Your Mom? Are you serious? That’s what you decided to name your band? I stuck around to check them out as I’ve been positively surprised by things that seemed stupider than their, stupid, stupid name. I wasn’t surprised. They played mediocre power-pop, with the singer appearing to struggle out every phrase into the mic. He sounded like if Conor Oberst lost that lispy thing he does, but really had to go to the bathroom. The whole band appeared to be going through the motions, completely uninspired. It must be frustrating them to have to follow the Velvet Teen every night on tour, headlining over an obviously better band. I gave them a few songs, then I gave up.

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