Blank Dogs, Naked on the Vague, Love Tan, Idle Times at the Funhouse, Seattle | 2 April 2009
This was easily the most packed I’ve ever seen the Funhouse. I arrived around 10 o’clock for the last part of Idle Times opening set and there was already a crowd around the stage. The combination of two really good Seattle bands as openers and highly prolific and getting better with each release Blank Dogs from Brooklyn as headliners was a pretty good reason to be at the Funhouse on Thursday night. I saw Idle Times back in December at the Sunset and liked them, but they sounded much better this night. The guitars sounded bigger and they just seemed more confident as a band. The live version of Idle Times is bigger than the recorded one. Instead of just Brian Idle you get a full band which means the songs just sound bigger. The guitar riffs become more accented, giving them a more Dinosaur Jr. feel.
Love Tan are the project of the Lights’ Craig Chambers and former Intelligence drummer Matthew Ford. Armed with the ever popular combination of guitar and drums, on paper these guys may seem like minimalists, but they are fully capable of rocking. Their stage personas come off as kind of smart-ass with Ford renaming all their songs to include skull in their titles and Chambers with a mischievous look that reminds me of the bully Scott Farkus in A Christmas Story. These guys clearly are playing without a rock rule book. Their knob twiddling jam Dissolve where Chambers screechy, piercing sounds without actually playing his guitar was killer and the highlight of the set for me with their most pop-like song This Land is No Good coming in a close second.
Blank Dogs were on tour with Naked on the Vague who are from Australia. I had checked out the Vague’s myspace a couple days before the gig and thought they sounded like industrial music, literally. Not the Sisters of Mercy, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry gothic style that Blank Dogs are fond of, but the clanging, and pounding dissonance of a factory. Live, they were no different deconstructing songs to their most basic noise elements. To quote Bob and Doug McKenzie from Strange Brew, Beauty sound, but not my style of music. Blank Dogs, with a few minor quips, did not disappoint. Mike Sniper, who is Blank Dogs on record brought along a full band including a keyboard setup that looked like medical machine in an intensive care unit with knobs and wires sticking out everywhere. The band were in no need of life support ripping through a ten song set with hardly a pause. Sniper’s vocals were pretty much indecipherable, partly because there was so much reverb and partly because the everything else was so loud. He left most of the lead guitar work to the other guitarist who’s leads seemed to pierce through the industrial haze of the rest of the band. My two complaints were that one song didn’t sound much different from the next, and that you could barely hear the drums. On record Sniper seems to be stretching out a bit with his latest Captured Tracks EP putting a emphasis on more clarity and melody. Live, he hasn’t quite gotten there yet, though his band does pack quite a wallop.