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Near-Legendary

August 21, 2006

Monday, August 21, 2006
Stardeath and the White Dwarfs/The Neighborhood/Rohypnol Rangers
The Opolis, Norman, OK

Having not been to a concert in roughly four months due to a working at a [url=http://www.newliferanch.com]Christian summer camp[/url], I was highly anticipating this show. I was also anticipating it because it was at the Opolis- a near-legendary venue in the Oklahoma music scene. Okay, maybe ‘near-legendary’ is a bit of an exaggeration, but I’ve always wanted to go there.
The show didn’t disappoint the venue’s ‘near-legendary’ status. The Rohypnol Rangers kicked the show off with a rowdy, over-the-top set of fractured, caustic, charging rock that sounded a bit like Modest Mouse trying to cover the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The herky-jerky tunes were played by a band that was just as nuts, from the profane and amusing lead vocalist/drummer to the bassist who was mostly there for show to the lead songwriter sported what he later termed a “Batuir”- a double necked behemoth of an instrument that started out as one guitar and one bass, but was later lovingly modified into one instrument, with a saw, some wood glue, and some duct tape (mostly for cosmetic effect, I think). The songs usually started out with a manic-paced guitar or bass riff on the batuir, accompanied by a quick but very solid drum beat. There was some yelling, some singing, some parodying of gruff vocalists, and a sing-a-long literally entitled “Take Out All the Trash”. That was indicative of their lyrical style- bizarre, humorous, and sung with enough conviction to almost wonder whether the Rangers were serious or not.

After a break to soothe our ears from the assault that was the Rangers, The Neighborhood produced a set of extremely talented indie-pop. That’s not to say that they didn’t rock or that they weren’t loud- if anyone’s ears weren’t ringing by the end of the first set, they were definitely ringing by the end of the Neighborhood’s first song. Featuring a very guitar-centric sound, the 3-piece ripped through a set of hummable pop tunes that would’ve been even better if we could’ve heard more of the vocals. In the whole guitar centricity of the set, the vocals oftentimes got lost in translation. The best few songs were the ones were the guitar was set down in favor of a keyboard, an acoustic, or a bass/drums feature, as the unique tone to the vocals had more chance to shine.

The drummer and the bassist are to be commended- the bassist kept the sound moving with highly melodic lines while the drummer used a lot of unusual effects (electronic drumming, drumming on a guitar) to augment his usual drumming style. The Neighborhood’s pop-rock did have an artsy bent to it- they introduced their set with a five-minute sound collage that really didn’t have much melody but provided lots of interesting rhythms and sounds. The well-chosen covers of “Pepper” by the Butthole Surfers and “Another Brick in the Wall” were also indicators of some artsy background. The former cover was an entrancing song- they played it with a confidence and swagger that gave life to the sordid lyrics.

Stardeath and the White Dwarfs had the audience’s attention even before the set started- they handed out laser pointers to every member of the audience and told us to shine the lasers on them during the show. Then they killed most of the lights and started their set, as the eerie glow of about 150 laser pointers lit up the band. The glow fit perfectly with the band’s sound, as the dreamy, droning, heavily reverbed sound produced a trance-like atmosphere in the room. It was highly enjoyable, but it was almost useless to try to distinguish between songs- most sounded quite similar. It was kind’ve like listening to early Spiritualized if Wayne Coyne guest-vocaled for them. Trippy, melodic, and buzzy with great melodies interspersed throughout, but still very similar in sound.

Intermittently throughout the set, the band would turn on a smoke machine with the result of making every single laser visible. From the barrel of the laser to the fretboard, mic stand, torso or drum that it landed on, it was visible- only enhancing the trance-like state.

One of their last songs featured a genre switch that blew my mind- a grooving techno-sounding bass line was played, which was dramatically different than everything else that had happened. While this bass player went nuts soloing, the lead singer held up a large round mirror that reflected all the lasers back on the audience- one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen at a concert. Light went everywhere, the audience went nuts, the band kept throwing down techno, and it was totally incredible.

I couldn’t have asked for a more entertaining show. The Opolis lived up to the hype I gave it.

-Stephen Carradini

independentclauses’hotmail.com

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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