Club 1808, 3/16
An unfinished room where one band sets up behind you while the other one plays in front: it's the season. Pataphysics are a band I've been aware of vaguely for some time but haven't seen until just now. They're entertaining, with a surprisingly tight and in-the-groove sound that mixes surf, Stones, and a sort of Adult Swim sense of humor. I like the goofy faces their frontman pulls (he's got a silly sort of Robert Pollard persona, with a a hint of John Waters high camp), and the way the melodies underlying the weird noises the keyboard player produces are quite solid ones. Their guitar player and bass player sort of lock in together and let the keys play off of them, which works well, and the vocal harmonies are spot-on given the eccentricities of the lead singer. Their songs have good hooks, and they mix the tempos up.
Grandchildren of Philadelphia must like Tortoise a whole lot; their use of multiple drummers and layers of coffee-percolator keyboards and samples is one sign but they also have a similar languid melodic vocabulary. They mix it up with stage energy and vocals, although the singing is kind of secondary to the drums which are right up front in their stage setup and their volume levels. Cool to see a band where three different guys play drums (well, and differently from each other!) all in the same song. I think they'd be more interesting if the vocals were a little louder and there was more traditional song structure in with all the agreeable (but by now post-rock textbook) arranged jamming. Their ability to set up quickly an array of instruments that included trumpet, trombone, two keyboards, two drum kits, two keyboards, two guitars, and bass and play a set that included loops, samples, and between-song transitions impressed me.
Follow That Bird! are growing Austin favorites and they deserve to be, although they seem to be going through some adjustments as they get used to life as a trio. They're definitely a louder band now but with a primitive monitor setup in the Club 1808 annex they lost the thread between rhythm and guitars at times, as enormous cymbals simply ate up all the less threatening sounds available to be heard. What they trade off in precision they're gaining in force, as Lauren Green's guitar playing gets gnarlier and the bass keeps the riffs echoing home. I like how their songwriting remains unpredictable even though the parts themselves are simple. They can play a three-chord change everybody knows and kill it in their own way, as the guitar chokes and spits up simple riffs and the drums race ahead like "Sister Ray."