Last night I realized that I can divide all of the shows I go to into three groups:
1. Classic acts that influenced all the bands I grew up with, and therefore must see.
2. Bands that I grew up with and therefore love.
3. Bands that are influenced by bands I grew up with, and can therefore look down my nose at and either nod approvingly or tsk tsk for shame.
Luckily (?) I am at an age where I consistently see shows from all three groups. Last night was a Group 3 show, and I’ll have to say, I’m a little conflicted about it.
I walked in mid way though Tub Ring’s set. Tub Ring is from Chicago, and formed around 2001. One of their members was a big Mr. Bungle fan, and you can hear that influence a bit, but what really slapped me were some striking similarities to Dillinger Escape Plan. The mathcore punk sound is present, but where DEP goes metal, Tub Ring goes…Fall Out Boy? Panic at the Disco? It’s definitely poppy, and for me, it was incongruous and confusing. Beyond that, the keyboardist used his keyboards more for gymnastics than keyboarding, which I found to be a bit gimmicky.
The economy is really sucking the life out of these smaller shows. The room is half full, but luckily 95% of them are fanatics about The Birthday Massacre. They are dressed in pristine Hot Topic threads, vying for stage space to be close to this band. I lean against the wall, an outcast among outcasts.
The Birthday Massacre is a six piece from Toronto who also formed around 2000, and each member sports these somewhat overthought one word names. Chibi, lead singer, is an unexpected (to me) mix of Amy Lee and Jenny McCarthy, dressed in a gothy schoolgirl outfit, perpetually making goofy facial expressions. Rainbow, guitarist, resembles a young, less drug-riddled Manson wearing John 5’s half done makeup, and unfortunately, about half of the chops. Falcore (is this a Neverending Story reference?), also on guitar, hides behind his two-toned hair, and seemed to have to refer to the setlist or notes or something a lot. O.E., on bass, provided a lot of animation. O-en, on keyboards and keytar, also liked to jump on his keyboards (what a peculiar common thread for these two bands!) and rocked the keytar as if it were a real axe. Last, but not least, Rhim, on drums, surprisingly has a day job in sound design at a videogame development studio, which I find amusing, especially for a Wikipedia entry.
I quickly discovered that I prefer to listen to this band through headphones. Live, the synths feel overly heavy, the whiny female vocals more pronounced, and the tempo too consistent. I think it was an issue with the setlist order which impacted their pacing, but the first 6 or 7 songs blended into one predictable mess, but this improved as we got closer to the end. The band works so hard to have an aesthetic point of view, a fan friendly vibe, and an energetic performance, that it actually works against them. It ended up feeling fake to me- too clean, too…nice.
That said, TBM has some well written songs, and I do like the idea of this goth-meets-’80s-fantasy-film-soundtrack vibe in theory. The execution just felt inauthentic to me. There were points where I was pretty sure Chibi had significant recorded vocals. Sometimes I couldn’t hear some of the instruments well- but judging by the sound guys constantly telling front row fans to back up off the equipment, that might have been the issue. And their clothes felt too off-the-rack. The cover of Tiffany’s ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ didn’t help.
Chibi is very touchy feely with the crowd. The hand is always out there. She had the mic grabbed from her at one point, and unfortunately, worse will occur one day if she continues to let the audience blur the line that much. It’s an unfortunate point to make, but I couldn’t get the thought out of my head as I watched her.
The Birthday Massacre puts on a nice little energetic show and has a nice little following. For the young crowd, still developing their own ‘Group 2’ bands, I see nothing wrong with liking this band. But to me, The Birthday Massacre may need a few more birthdays before they come into their own.
To Die For
I Think We’re Alone Now
Walking with Strangers
youtubes from DreDritzl
To Die For
The Birthday Massacre performance: 7.5/10
Tub Ring performance: 7.25/10
venue (Slim’s): 8/10
value ($16/ticket): 7.5/10