I've never been there, but I imagine Omaha, NB, as a magical place, an oasis in the desert of hillbillies and farmers where eye-liner, tight jean and rock t-shirt-wearing indie superstars-in-the-making practice their craft under the tutelage of Bright Eyes' Connor Oberst, recording genius Mike Mogis and Saddle Creek guru Robb Nansel. Everyone in Omaha owns at least two guitars (one acoustic, one electric) and a collection of no fewer than 200 LPs, filed alphabetically by genre (required albums include The Velvet Underground And Nico, Devo's Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, and Woody Guthrie's Dust Bowl Ballads, amongst others). There are no fast food restaurants, but rehearsal spaces, used instrument shops and thrift stores line the streets. For two nights this week, Omaha, Nebraska's very own The Faint transplanted their mythical homeland into the heart of Chicago's North side for a pair of sold out shows at the Metro.
I was lucky enough to land a pair of tix to last night's all-ages show (which had sold out a month in advance). As I walked upstairs to the typical "industry" hang out, schmooz area, I stopped at the second floor bar to grab a tasty Goose Island Honkers ale and noticed that the center of the upstairs balcony (a prime location for those lucky enough to arrive early) had been roped off. The reason for this, I discovered, was to make way for a pair of huge digital projectors that The Faint would use to perfection throughout their set. Beer in hand, I wrastled (yes, wrastled) my way over to the balcony to the left of the stage, stood up on the heater to gain an extra three or four inches in height and nestled in for what was to be one hell of a show.
By the time the lights dimmed signaling the immanent arrival of The Faint, the crowd surged forward en masse in a wild frenzy to get a glimpse of their apparent messiahs. As I said, this was an all-ages show, and though it's probably "cooler" to go watch a show with all the old hipsters who are too cool to do much more than nod their head, there is something to be said for the energy that these kids bring to their concert going experience. Unlike many of us, this is probably the best thing these kids are going to do for next three months, and by god, they were out to take full advantage.
The Faint's first few songs hit like a upper cut from Mike Tyson. The force with with the bass exploded out of the speakers was intense and sent the crowd, who were packed like sardines on the ground floor, into an frenzy of orgy-tastic dancing. For me, it was sensory overload. The digital projectors shown perfectly synchronized video on two enormous screens at the back of the stage, erected specifically for the show. The band was kicking out the fucking hits like they were the best band in the world and the crowd, which I could see perfectly from the balcony, was surging back and forth like a tsunami of religious adoration for this band. I couldn't decide what to watch.
Unlike another band who plays a similar, yet slightly more hooky, brand of electro-infused dance/rock, and aren't the most, shall we say, animated performers but get a ton of radio airplay regardless, The Faint walk onto the stage and own it. Frontman Todd Baechle has studied every second of concert footage from U2's Rattle & Hum and practiced the stage moves of Bono until able to execute them to perfection, which he does (all while sporting a mini-mullet). Just to give one example, he does that move where he plants his feet on the stage, spread out wide, and hangs on to the mic stand like the sound waves from his uber-powerful band are a gust of wind that nearly blows him over. The rest of the band have taken a page from the book of european club goers and dance around in a slightly feminine way, arms swirling wildly. They were so animated and confident and cohesive that it was impossible not to dance along with them.
The set was divided into equal parts old and new, with the crowd showing no preference for the band's debut, Danse Macabre, or their latest, Wet From Birth. There was a little "Your Retro Career Is Melting" here and little "I Disappear" there and one was just as ass shakingly great as the next. The set wrapped up with "Glass Danse" from Danse Macabre, by far my favorite of the band's songs and it was mind-blowing. I wondered how it could be topped for the encore. To my amazement the band came out and launched into "Paranoiattak" from their latest effort. The projection screen superimposed perfectly synchronized lips onto TV newsmen that lip synched with the vocals from the song. This worked the crowd into an absolute frenzy that ended with the entire 1200-person strong Metro chanting "PARANOIA! PARANOIA! PARANOIA!" After that I figured, "OK, they're done. No way they can top that." Wrong again.
Their version of "Agenda Suicide" was one of the most intense live experiences I've seen. Gnarly keyboards and bass combined to almost blow the doors off of the place and moments of concentrated, super intense, angry, and emotional musical bliss made my jaw seriously drop to the floor. I could not believe how commanding this band was, how they demanded to be seen and heard and would not settle for a second rate performance. Perhaps I caught them on a good night. Perhaps it was the surging bodies of kids, but this was one of those experiences that gives you a whole new appreciation for a band.
It's a shame that these guys aren't getting more attention at radio. This is where it's at. These guys are the real thing. They did it first and they're only getting better. Programmers, is it that imperative to have someone hounding you for an add. Do you need to get something in return for adding a record? Saddle Creek may not have the muscle to make you play this record, but they don't need it. YOU should play it because it fucking rules and that's all that should matter. Kisses.