Broken Bells - 930 Club - June 7, 2010
Its been less than three months since Broken Bells released the clandestine collaboration between Shins frontman James Mercer and side-project-extraordinaire Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton), but I'm sure it feels much longer for the group as they are just wrapping up a 16-stop US tour. They blew through DC Monday night with a sold out show at the 930 Club.
Openers the Morning Benders were a real delight. Although my party missed the first few songs by the west coast upstarts (gotta get those Duffy's tots for pregame), I can only assume they were as pleasant and well-played as the last few. These guys sound great, and if they can stick with it for a few more years, I think they have a real career ahead of them. If you have tickets to the Black Keys show in July, do yourself a favor and get to the show early. The crowd generally respected the group too, which is a nice change of pace for DC's typical busier-than-thou attitude.
Broken Bells came out at 930 on the dot with much aplomb. They opened with a space jam reminiscent of a Pink Floyd track, and jumped right into 'October'. Danger Mouse rocked the kit for most of the show, but demonstrated his versatility by moving from drums to guitars to keys and back again. There was a pretty sweet lightshow too, complete with DIY bedsheet projector screen and a psychedelic space travel video. The sound was incredibly polished both musically and acoustically, which is always my first and foremost concern. Throw in a couple of 60's AM cover songs and you got yourself a decent show right out of the gate.
Unfortunately, that isn't the end of the story. This overcrowded, overhyped, and ultimately underwhelming show failed to razzle or dazzle. Clocking in at roughly 55 minutes of playing time, it would be hard to do either. I don't mean to undercut the musicianship of Mercer or Danger (or the four other nameless bandmates), but frankly you need to be able to do more than recreate fairly simple notes and rhythms on stage. I have three highlights of the night: 1) Smokey Robinson cover (although some dates got a freaking Neutral Milk Hotel cover!!!); 2) twelve year old stating, "I've not seen it this crowded in a long time. This is like ANIMAL COLLECTIVE crowded!"; 3) being home before 11 PM. Does that sound like a raging show to you?
In conclusion, regardless of my criticism, I enjoyed myself. The band didn't overextend themselves by any means, and why should they? This, after all, is merely a side-project for all parties involved. I liken attending this show to seeing that movie you saw that one time. You know the one with that guy? About that thing? The one you know you liked but absolutely nothing sticks out at you when you think back on it? Oh yeah, that one. Scorecard below.