Can I just say right now that it could be one of the most frustrating things for me not to be able to put something in context? Without context, it's hard for me to understand what is going on. I feel lost, disoriented, out of place. So it was odd for me when I left Rogue Wave's show Friday night, completely satisfied.
The San Franciscan band was headlining at The Parish, downtown on 6th. This venue is a great spot in town that I have rarely visited, but each trip down has been nothing but comfortable. The overall aesthetic of the room lends itself perfectly to live music with its worn wood floors and friendly beer selection. The warm glow coming off the low-hung Chinese lanterns is easy on the eyes and you almost forget you're standing above hoards of drunk UT students taking shots on the streets below.
Arriving halfway through the opener, Jason Collett of Broken Social Scene, we grabbed a beer and a spot near the side of the crowd. Backed by fellow Canadians Paso Mino, Collett eased through his solo material, his sound tending to drift towards Bob Dylan or Lyle Lovett rather than the raucous mash of BSS. After playing love songs to the back of the room and inviting everyone to Barton Springs the next day, Collett left the stage and made way for the headliners.
I had seen Rogue Wave once before, with Nada Surf. It was a ferocious week of shows for me at the time and I ended up completely confusing them with another band. So when they first broke into it on Friday, I was thrown way off.
Right off the bat, I couldn't place the sound. They seemed to float in and out of folk-pop, spacious rock and indie ballads. I was starting to get frustrated with the fact that I couldn't connect it with anything. The sound was familiar, with other modern bands coming to mind as they made their way through the set. Death Cab, The Shins, hints of Weezer, Youth Group (the Australian band I had actually confused them for) all came to mind. Their sound seemed to slip in and out of my grasp at every turn, each song lending itself to something different.
Here's the thing about their variety - it's not necessarily a bad trait. It was actually refreshing. Once I got past the fact I couldn't place anything, I just sat back and was entertained with a smile on my face the whole show. Going through the few songs I recognized was a blast. The bass line in "Bird On A Wire" sent me bouncing through a sloppy landscape of cut and paste construction paper. It was like an imaginary pastel world where water is really cellophane, much like a Michel Gondry movie. Softly, the mood shifted with "California" and all of a sudden I was driving through the countryside on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Then they blasted across the universe with "Publish My Love," a colorful take on something Coldplay or U2 would enjoy. It was all done so seamlessly, with no effort or sense of unease about it. I hardly even noticed the three backing members were trading off, periodically switching from bass to drums or guitar over to bass. Every combination was realized.
Overall the night could be simply put as fun. Even though the crowd seemed to dissipate before our eyes, the positivity from the band still emanated, and if they were put off by the attendance in the end, it certainly didn't show.
It's nice to see such a refreshing band out there in the way that Rogue Wave is doing it. There is an obvious sense of musicianship up there, and they seem to be very likable guys, which makes it difficult to hear bad news coming from their direction. A friend informed me that the guys will be performing a benefit show at the end of the month in their hometown, featuring Ben Gibbard (Death Cab), Matthew Caws (Nada Surf), Ryan Miller (Guster) and John Vanderslice. The whole thing is to support and raise money for Rogue Wave's drummer, Pat Spurgeon, who is in need of a new kidney. Born with only one that failed in the '90s, his transplant is no longer doing the job and with no friends that match, the band is helping him out the only way they know how.
Even with the sour note to end the night, we still had a great time, and I think that's a testament to the talent that performed. With an already impressive set list and the new tracks we were given, I'd say Rogue Wave is headed in the right direction.
If you'd like to learn more about the benefit show, or contribute to the fund, head over to Rogue Wave's official site.
by Kyle Rother