Written by Todd Spoth
Nov 09, 2006 at 08:00 PM
ImageNow this is a rare occurrence for me. A show where I had hardly heard any of the music of the bands on the bill…and there were 6 of them. There is usually at least 1 band that I’ve either seen before or know at least a few songs of their music, however tonight was indeed the rare exception. Besides being able to identify the radio hits of the headlining band, 30 Seconds to Mars, and coincidently running into Head Automatica during a midnight acoustic show for their latest record release at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square, I was a blank slate, a fresh set of ears, ready to be aurally persuaded if you will.

Surprise, Surprise; the incredible lines into the underground theater district parking caused us to miss the opener, Cobra Starship. In their honor we did listen to some sweet Daft Punk with the windows down while waiting to park. Its always such a clash of cultures, when one parks in Houston’s Theater District parking, as you will have line’s of Lexus’ filled with uptight, snobby 50’somethings attending the symphony intermingled with ’85 Honda Civics’ with a ton a bumper stickers and packed to the brim with troubled youth. Am I stereotyping…maybe. Does it really go down like this…definitely.

We walk in during the Rock Kills Kid set. They had a nice chilled out, pop-rock sound, with soothing vocals and nice synth added in. The band as a whole wasn’t loud enough and since this was a reoccurring issue throughout the night, I was convinced it was the venue’s issue and not the individual bands’. I’ve said this many times before, but these tours are set up to get people interested in the opening acts. They send out a popular headliner to draw out the kids and then put a bunch of fairly unknown bands on the bill to gain exposure, which is the way touring works in general, but it’s certainly amplified in these cases. The venue was certainly packed, and even though there were maybe 5 people at most that knew their music, the band was lively and into it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen bands, just get discouraged (and its easy to, I’ve been there) by a stagnant crowd, but these guys did not.

The Receiving End of Sirens was up next, and I was anxious to get to finally hear these guys. I have known of them for a while, however I have never had the chance to see them live, or hear any of their music. They were definitely the heavier of the bands on the bill, combining intricate guitar riffs, syncopated percussion, and strangely satisfying dual vocal harmonies. These guys might have jumped and danced around the stage more than any band I’ve seen in a while. They are from Boston, and made it known when they identified a Red Sox hat in the crowd. I won’t hold this against them too much, as they gained a few points back with me by stating that Bagwell and Clemens were good ball players. Definitely a band I would come see again.

Like I mentioned before, I saw the next band, Head Automatica, play an acoustic set over the summer and after seeing them live in full force, I think I prefer the acoustic version. These guys came out dressed in vintage suits, typical of bands of their genre. The band is just that, too typical, and it’s poppy, real poppy. While there were a few hooks that had me swaying my head back in forth in a half-mocking manner, the majority of the songs were more annoying than they were catchy. There were, however, many girls that were dancing wildly during their set, identifying me as the outcast here. Regardless of my own jaded perception, these guys did their thing and it seems to be working for them.

Street Drum Corps, a lyrical sort of pseudo-stomp act introduced the headliner. I wasn’t ready for their act and although it was terribly long and seemed repetitive at times, it positively blew me away. These guys performed a symphony of disturbingly enjoyable sounds from everyday auto parts and trash. With paint cans, exhaust manifolds, belt sanders, and other random objects these guys had everyone jammin. At one point one of the members jumped off the stage and did some head walking into the crowd. These guys were most certainly the most entertaining and original act I have seen in years. I am not sure where these guys perform on the regular, but if you have a chance to see them, don’t pass it up.

Before 30 Seconds to Mars took the stage I had the chance to talk to a few of the fans. I noticed that many of them were dressed in torn white dress shirts and adorned with fake blood. With Halloween more than a week back, I had to inquire about the wear. Apparently it is a tribute to the band’s video for their single, “The Kill”, which in itself is a tribute to the movie The Shining. After talking to the a few of the fans, who ranged from 15 to 43, I asked about My So Called Life, a television series that front man and accomplished actor, Jared Leto was a part of for many years. It was then that I learned that it was a passé to talk about the show and was promptly made fun of for my liking of the show. Sure I loved Requiem for a Dream and his other big ticket hits, but there is always a soft spot for My So Called Life, as the DVD set sits neatly on my shelf near the TV.

In neat, artistic fashion, the band took the stage one-by-one, with each member wearing a masquerade mask. Eventually the front man, and everyone’s favorite took the stage, waving a huge flag and passing out roses to the anxious crowd. After throwing his mask off, Leto lead the band into a set of non-stop rock and roll. Honestly, it’s not something that I would listen to everyday, but these guys rocked. There are more than several examples of bands, fronted by Hollywood actors/actresses, but this isn’t some publicity accruing, side project, these guys are for real and take it seriously. And to top it all off, Leto can sing! -Todd Spoth (www.toddspoth.com)