No parking on the dance floor
The noisy, the new-wavey and the bratty warm up Off Limits
Tucked into the corner of the dance floor at Off Limits is a small bandstand. It’s out of the way so as to allow plenty of room for shakin’ one’s thang long into the night. This was a rock show in Chico, though, so the dance floor was mostly a breezy no-man’s land that gradually filled up but never offered much movement.
No matter. Openers West by Swan would need every inch of airspace to operate. Beginning the first set with the patience of science teachers conducting a complex experiment, the Greenfield brothers on guitars and Conrad Nystrom on bass emitted tonal ingredients that at first floated in the background, out of the way of bar conversations. As more and more elements were mixed into the atmospheric jam, drummer Daniel Taylor patiently stirred and thickened the noise into a driving wash of sound that reached across the divide and began to pull the wallflowers out of the shadows.
Now, Squirrel Vs. Bear would have been the perfect band with which to pack the dance floor. And it did get packed, and the packed-in did nod along in approval. But with its dance beat of a New-Wavish revival, SVB deserved more. In the same vein as some of the dance-punk crews makin’ the scene these days—Franz Ferdinand, The Rapture, et al.—there is no band like the Bear in Chico right now. All they need is to pump up the guitars a bit (OK, a lot) and add some edge to that fun beat.
Sub Pop’s The Thermals were the closers, and as much as I’ve fallen in love with the incredible “How We Know,” off last year’s critically acclaimed Fuckin’ A, I had forgotten what I learned when I saw the band last summer—the rest of the tunes aren’t nearly as good.
Lead Thermal Hutch Harris looked as cool as his name, with stringy hair hanging over his Night of the Living Dead eyes, and his vocal delivery (not unlike the Buzzcocks’ Pete Shelly) is well-suited to the task of whipping a punkish, bratty, power-pop trio into a frenzy. The problem is, other than the in-out guitar dynamics of that one hit (which ruled!); the rest of the repetoire is just … even, no dynamics. I like it. It moves fast and fun, but not furious enough to exist on speed and hyperness alone.