Many have failed trying to successfully pull off a Sunday night rock and roll show. More often than not the band can’t summon the requisite energy and the crowd breeds a buzz-killing lethargy. It’s tough, after all, to summon sufficient joie de vivre for a third, (or in DC, often a fourth), night in a row of bacchanalian epic-ness. In fact, in my experience it’s a short list of Sunday shows that are truly memorable, and tonight’s Shout Out Louds concert achieved that distinction. The other, a Bloc Party show at 9:30 Club last year, merits mention as one of the most transcendent performances I’ve ever witnessed. That evening’s performance was so thoroughly cathartic and uplifting that the jubilant crowd continued to dance in the afterglow as the house lights came up and recorded music replaced the raw energy that lept off the stage. The party continued, unabated, until club workers eager to head home were forced to ask patrons to leave the club. In short, the crowd that night was in a full-on frenzy and tonight’s crowd had moments where it approached that fever pitch. Not bad for a Sunday…not bad indeed.
There are tried and true elements of musical theory that when placed into practice often elicit the level of madness required for a proper rock and roll show. For whatever reason, European bands, (if one may blithely include Scandanavia in that designation), seem to understand the subtleties of crescendo and decrescendo in a way that few American groups ever internalize. That certain something adds a certain something to the chemistry between a performer and their audience. It’s a certain something that builds towards an intense climax about which you’ll either tell your friends or they’ll see anyway in your flushed face. When you add in mathematically precise layering of complementary rhythms and melodies, the effect multiplies. The SOLs’ compositions display a fantastical understanding of how a group can build that emotional pitch by adding layers at specific intervals, (let’s say, for example, on every fourth or eighth measure for maybe 32 measures), and thus elevating the emotional swell.
That’s but one of many obviously intelligent constructions that make this stylish Stockholm-based quintet worth far more than the $15 ticket. A panoply of musical references could be heard throughout the show, ranging from the obvious Robert Smith-esque vocalizations to the Velvet Underground overtones of Too Late Too Slow that seemed fitting given keyboardist Bebban Stenborg’s composite resemblance to Nico and Edie Sedgwick. One might have expected a band on their first US club date and without their regular bassist to have a few kinks, but the tightness of their performance was never an issue.
The band’s third album may not have generated quite the buzz of their first two, but the crowd showed strong appreciation for songs from all three albums. After playing the majority of their current record, the set closed with a rousing rendition of Very Loud that included an unexpected Walk Like an Egyptian interlude. Climax within reach, the crowd returned the love eagerly with passionately frenetic and lather-inducing movement. Luckily for the eager audience, the three-song encore kept the set’s flow bubbling along and culminated in a satisfying new song that merited it’s role as the Get-Out-Of Town-Tune, Walls. While the joint’s roof stayed intact, it’s safe to say that the close-to-a-sellout crowd departed with smiles on their face and infectious pop-infused melodies dancing nimbly in their heads.