Indie is Just OK
Monday May 30th, 2005
Scales of Motion/Little Compass/The Programme
The Pinkeye, Tulsa, State
On May 30th I took a routine trip the Pinkeye to see the bands that I usually see on my routine trips: the Programme, Scales of Motion, and whoever decides to play with them (aka the band that will most likely be pummeled into oblivion). That night, the pummeled band was Little Compass. As big, bad, signed to a label, and from Houston as they were, they could not match the indie intensity of local bands the Programme and Scales of Motion.
Much to my dismay, The Programme was the opening band, but it was a killer opener regardless. I’ve seen this band three times now, and every time their intense wall of sound leaves audiences stunned and amazed. The cracker box of a venue was stuffed practically wall to wall with people eager to see the band’s next to last show, as the band members have graduated from high school and are going to different colleges in the fall. Many of the people there had actually never heard of the band, but judging by the way everyone was either smiling, intensely frozen, or buying CDs assured that everyone in the crowd had finally heard them, and would be hearing them in some way, shape, or form for the next several hours.
Their groundbreaking debut (and only ever) album [u]Theseus and the Time Machine[/u] is a true art-rock gem- something entirely unheard of in the state of Oklahoma, or the southwest region of the country for that matter. Their brand of textural music has greater mood swings than Mike Tyson, and it pulls no punches. Every song hits you right in the gut and makes you sympathize more than you ever thought you could with a mad scientist who travels back in time to keep his true love from ever meeting her real life husband. The story has no narration but
through song titles, and even though there are no lyrics, the songs portray exactly what they are supposed to portray with moody landscapes and passionate grooves. Their live performances live up to every aspect of the album, and this one was no different. Performed were the harder-hitting songs on the album like “Theseus Meets Pianissimo”, “They Make Love”, “Enter Xanthus, Pianissimo’s Husband”, “The Death of Xanthus”, “Return to the Future Only to Discover Everything Has Changed” and “The Wayward Time Traveler”, which all left the crowd electrified and full of applause. Aside from the power of the music, the usual Programme stage antics helped fuel the show. Lead guitarist Max Porter jerked around like a madman and kicked a bell kit into the crowd after
the bell kit feature in “Return to the Future Only to Discover Everything Has Changed”, rhythm/reverb guitarist Mark Chronister didn’t move at all but showed intensity through a cold stare at his guitar, bassist Travis Loafman grooved hard in his punk rock bassist stance, and drummer Jed Skalnik absolutely destroyed his drums. The band members’ individual ways of showing intensity in the performance helped make this show another memorable performance amongst many
memorable performances I’ve seen by them. The crowd was utterly transfixed by them, and the many fans that were there showed even more dedication to the band by humming the vocal melodies to “Theseus Meets Pianissimo” and “The Wayward Time Traveler” in place of Mark Chronister doing them himself. The hum through the audience was magic, as was the band. That all being said, they were a tough act to follow. It’s too bad they’ll only be followed (or opened for) one more time.
Next on the set list was Little Compass. I must say I liked the name, but outside of that, their performance was flat compared to the stellar Programme. I don’t know much about the band because this concert was the first time I had ever heard of them. It’s probably the last time I will hear from them, because I was not impressed. Their performance intensity was adequate, their music was average, and their crowd communication skills seemed forced at best. Most of the crowd seemed to notice their lack of stage presence as well. I could see the lips of the several people who came to see them singing the words to their songs, but overall, most of the crowd was unimpressed. However, almost every song had at least one good idea in it, and sometimes they would carry it through their songs and make decent songs. Most of the time this was not the case. Little Compass is on the verge of doing something good, because the set list improved as their set went along, but it was still an unimpressive set overall. I wish them luck in what they do, but on this night they did not win me over.
Then finally came the hometown favorites Scales of Motion. Their grooving indie-rock sound definitely helped pick up from where the Programme left off, as the Programme and Scales of Motion tend to have very similar feels to their rock songs. They played songs such as “White Noise”, “Desert Life”, and “As Far as East is From the West”, as well as 2 unreleased songs, and as usual, they wooed the audience. I found myself singing the lyrics that I knew to their songs and tapping my feet to the rhythms that Craig Maricle hammered out of his Pork Pie drums, Kevin Skillern chopped out of his Telecaster, and Chris Skillern thumped out of his Richenbacher bass.
The atmosphere in the venue was revamped and the rhythms overtook the crowd as they did me: feet were tapping, heads were moving, and hands were patting thighs (just to clarify: hands were patting the thighs attached to the same body, not other peoples’ thighs). It was a great way to cap off an overall great night of music. Scales of Motion was the feel-good band of the night- you didn’t have to feel a whole lot or gain a whole lot from the surprisingly overtly Christian lyrics to go away feeling great because of their performance. They are a very experienced band and know how to work a crowd without saying a whole lot or even doing a whole lot. Their music just feels right, and I walked out of the Pinkeye with the feeling of having come out of a great concert. The indie music scene in Oklahoma is doing just fine. Indie is just OK.