Saturday, July 5, 2008

Smoking Popes / Restorations / Thinking Machines - 7.2.08

Johnny Brendas
9:30 PM

Heather and I got there pretty early, and we ate dinner while hanging out with some friends beforehand. This show took a while to get started, so I was already kind of antsy by the time Thinking Machines started. They were a three piece indie rock band, with some angular rhythms and start/stops. They were cool, but I'm not sure they were really my thing. They had some pretty solid parts where they were rocking out a bit more, and these bits were more engaging than the slower or more technical stuff. I might go check em out live if they were playing, but it's nothing that I'd listen to on a regular basis.

Restorations were up next, and I wasn't too sure what to expect. It's 3/4 of Jena Berlin, with Mike Drelling playing bass. Everyone that I talked to was giving me different sounds to expect, but the closest I can come up with is this: take the more indie rock/softer parts of the first Jena Berlin full length, then switch out the vocals between Jon and Dave. Overall, I really liked it, and was pretty damn impressed. Mike was in a bike accident the day before, so he was playing with a pretty beat up hand, and there were a few other sound issues (Jon's amp was wayyy too loud), but they turned in a good first show. They have a few other shows lined up in the near future, so I would definitely recomend trying to catch them. They're shooting to have a 7" out after the summer, so I'm excited to see how it turns out.

The last time I saw the Smoking Popes, I was really blown away. I'd never paid much attention to them before, but after that show, I made a point of checking them out. This was another really good set. These guys are tight (even with a new drummer - Neil from the Lawrence Arms!), and are pretty much always spot on. Even though I'm not super familiar with their material, they played most of the songs I really wanted to hear. Their regular set was at least 15 songs, and they played a four song encore as well. I was glad to hear "Writing a Letter," "Star Struck One" and "Pretty Pathetic" (in the encore).

It should also be noted that there were a few moments of great crowd interaction. First of all, there was a glorious group of old fans who were wearing Smoking Popes shirts, and dancing in hilarious ways. Words can't really describe the way the leader (a drunk musclehead in a cut off t-shirt who would occasionally just jump straight in the air) was dancing, and his even drunker, possibly mentally handicapped friend was even better. Another great moment occured when a random fan ran up on stage, danced, hugged the bassist, and ran off. Not a huge deal, albeit stupid. Well, when he ran up again, hugged the bassist more and messed up his gear, he stumbled away, fell off the stage and spilled a beer all over the place. Luckily he did fall, because if he didn't, he almost took an overhead axe swing from a bass. Pretty wild.

The Smoking Popes played for over an hour, which was pretty damn awesome, but considering I'd been there for about six hours by that point, and I'm only semi-familiar with their records, it got to be a bit long. They sounded really full, and watching them play with Neil is great. He's a solid-ass drummer that really added to their sound. To be honest, the set could have been a bit shorter to keep my attention, but it was another impressive set from them.

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