We Were Promised Jetpacks, The Twilight Sad, Frightened Rabbit- Bottletree- September 26, 2009
Last minute shows can be the ones that surprise you in the best kind of way. A few months back my brother mentioned this show and his deep desire to be in town to see it. Not being entirely familiar with the sounds of the bands, I had nearly forgotten all about it, until I saw the Bottletree’s Facebook status update (one of the few benefits of technology, right?). For those new to town, Bottletree is a small venue in downtown Birmingham that caters mostly to the indie crowd, but hosts a wide variety of acts. So I headed downtown in hopes of buying tickets at the door. I was immediately reminded why I love Bottletree. It was a Saturday night show and the whole place was jumping. There was a decent mix of people there to enjoy a good show and those just looking for a hangout with good music and a nice bar. It was a fairly small crowd considering the size of the venue causes it to sell out fast. I grabbed a soda and made my way toward the stage. I came to the show with very little knowledge of any of the acts beyond the fact that they were all Scottish.
The first act up was We Were Promised Jetpacks. I knew with a name like that they had to be truly amazing to have made it this far. They looked like they just came from a high school battle of the bands, which is incidentally how the band was formed nearly six years ago. But this unassuming look adds to the grand shock they delivered with their first song. Their sound was big, warm and round. The lead singer, Adam, has an uneasy smile and adorable accent, but when he opened his mouth to sing, I was amazed. He has a strong, dulcet and clear voice that, when coupled with their lyrics, is a simple pleasure. “It’s Thunder And It’s Lightning” and “Quiet Little Voices” were the stand out songs to me. The band has an interesting live sound that I am still attempting to properly place, but for illustrative purposes I could say they had some post-rock influences with simple lyrical changes, interesting effects handled by the guitarist Michael, and a slightly emo feel. Now I freely admit to being an Americana and straight rock loving kind of girl, but these cats grabbed me with their first song and did not let go until they left the stage.
The next band up was The Twilight Sad hailing from Kilsyth, Scotland. They looked much different from the first band, and at first glance one could have easily confused them for your typical college town bar band. Again I was interested to see what they would sound like, and like Jetpacks I was pleasantly surprised at what I heard. They were much more post rock influenced assailing the audience with an intense wall of sound. At first I heard a bit of Explosions in the Sky in their sound, but they are much more complex than just their use of effects. The lyrics on the other hand had a much more folky appeal to them. The layers of sound and effects did wonders to bolster lead singer, James Graham’s lyrics and intensity. Graham’s live show role in the band is to sing, but he brings much more than just his voice. In “Talking With Fireworks/Here, It Never Snowed” he contributed to the noise by banging on a cymbal. Throughout the show he seemed to be possessed by the songs, letting them control his movements and voice. Between the wall of sound and James Graham’s charisma the crowd seemed enamored by The Twilight Sad.
Then finally, Frightened Rabbit hit the stage. Again, they looked nothing like what I expected, with the lead singer’s beard and the whole group looked like a Paste Magazine cover. Interestingly, their look held pretty true to their sound. They have a decidedly more indie and folky sound than the first two bands. All three acts formed around 2003 but Frightened Rabbit just seemed to be in the right place at the right time when they opened for Death Cab For Cutie on their UK tour. However, it was this band though that got the room dancing and smiling. “Old Old Fashioned” even elicited some girly screams from the group behind me. Their sound was very warm, rounded and filled the venue nicely. I could hear a bit of The Shins with a little Ryan Adams in his Americana stage. The lead singer, Scott Hutchinson, dragged the sound where he wanted it to go, almost like the ringleader of a circus. He, much like Graham of The Twilight Sad, has such an air of charisma and likability about him that it is hard not to enjoy the music.
A good live show should leave you reeling. And if the performers have done their job you should leave a little different than when you arrived. The high points of the night came into light while I was driving home and dissecting the experience. I loved that each band had such a distinct and unique sound. It was almost as though had each band not held their own, the night could have felt jumbled and incoherent. However, the most interesting part of the night was coming to the realization that all three bands sang with their Scottish accents. This is refreshing to hear, but the nice thing is that it was not obvious. We Were Promised Jetpack’s singer has a newer, younger accent, but it still remains prominent in his singing and rhyming for that matter. On the other hand The Twilight Sad’s singer, James, has a much thicker accent and even rolls his R’s, but at some points in the set caused the lyrics to be hard to understand. And finally Frightened Rabbit’s singer has a much more subdued accent as it comes out in some words more than others. So having attended at the last moment I am beyond glad to have seen these bands in action. I highly recommend checking out one if not all of the bands depending on your personal music tastes.