Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Pants | Higher Ground | May 27th

In New Jersey, it was The Nerds. In Bethlehem, it was The Original Sins. In Rochester, it was The Thunder Gods. In Burlington, it's The Pants.

Local Legends.

On Saturday, jds and I headed over to Burlington to catch the much vaunted reunion show of The Pants. Having heard the hype around The Pants for the last few years, I was eager to see what they delivered on stage.

Minutes after buying my ticket, the show sold out. Considering that bands such as The Decemberists, Wolf Parade, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Magnolia Electric Company, Secret Machines and The Pernice Brothers have failed to sell out Higher Ground, it's a nice accomplishment for an indie rock band in Burlington.

We got there in time to catch the end of the set by the opening band, Tell No One. Musically, they sounded OK but their lead singer was straight out of the Cookie Monster Singing School. RAWR RAWR RAWR! I can't stand that sound so I counted the minutes until they left the stage.

jds found a co-worker of his who was into The Pants back in the 90's. So, we hung with them for a while as we waited for The Pants to take the stage. I asked him why he loved The Pants so much but his response was similar to every other response I've heard over the years..."I really liked them. They were just really good."

The Pants finally hit the stage but before they could even play a note, they had audio problems. One of the guitars wasn't coming through the monitors or speakers. So, we waited ten minutes or so as they fixed it. Lead singer/guitarist Tom Lawson cracked a funny joke about it by walking to the mic and saying, "It wouldn't be a fucking Pants show without a technical glitch, eh?" At that point, jds pointed out the similarities between The Pants and The Jazz Guys. Both, hailing from Burlington with hopes of breaking out of town, have heavy guitar sounds with two guitarists, bass and drums. Both have strong local followings, publicity shots of the band in the shower and posess witty frontmen.

After the sound problems were fixed, the band launched into their set. I've listened to each of their albums but don't know the songs well enough to say what songs they did or didn't play. However, the crowd around me had no doubt what songs they were playing as they all sang along in unison. It was startling how into the show everyone was. I'm used to slackers, shoegazers, and scenesters who are too busy looking disinterested and cool to sing along. But it certainly added to the energy in the crowd which was the best I've ever seen at Higher Ground. The amazing thing was that the folks around me nailed every lyric in the perfect time which meant that The Pants were being damn tight in relation to the original recordings. That's an impressive feat for a band that hadn't played together in six+ years.

Having said all of that, I was one of the very few that wasn't fully into the show. Their sound just doesn't reverberate with me for whatever reason. However, like I said, I was in the minority. I was enjoying the crowd, having a few beers and hanging out with friends but The Pants just don't click with me.

After about 45 minutes, Lawson announced that they'd be playing a few more songs, taking a break and coming back for a second set. I've become conditioned to shows lasting between 60 and 90 minutes. So, it was painful for me to hear that the show was going to last another hour or two. However, it was absolutely the right call by the band. If their fans have just one chance to relive all of their memories of yesteryear, the band ought to crank out as much music as it is physically possible.

So, during the break, I hung out with k of Analog Giant and his girlfriend and then checked in with Bill Simmon of Candleblog fame to see how his filming was going. It sounded like Bill was loving the show and was getting good footage.

jds was having similar feelings about the show as me. So, during the break, we decided to just see if the second set was the same as the first set and if it was to hit the road. However, during the first few songs of the second set, jds started to get into it and wanted to stick around. Therefore, we stayed until the very end.

One cool part of the show was how much the band enjoyed playing. Lawson repeatedly mentioned how he was having a great time and the rest of the band repeatedly sported smiles. It's fun to see a band enjoying themsleves so much.

Here's the thing that confuses, annoys and perplexes me...why did so many people show up and act enthusiastically for The Pants while dozens of other indie bands come through town and play to dead half-empty rooms? Where have these people been?

My guess is that a lot of people at the show have strong emotions for those early adult years of their life with few responsibilities and lots of fun times. And The Pants were the house band to those great years. Hence, they've hooked those emotions they hold to The Pants.

The other possibility is that people in Vermont are very provincial. Perhaps they love The Pants because they are one of their own and bands from Portland, NYC, Boston, etc. aren't as important to them. However, the folks in the jam scene seem to support lots of out-of-town acts. So, it doesn't seem to be an issue of people being insular. Unless there is a big difference between the indie kids and jam fiends.

Whatever it is, it's baffling to a recently transplanted flatlander.

By the way, Candleblog has two posts on the show here and here and solidstate's post-show post is here.


chad said...

That was a great read.

c said...

their lead singer was straight out of the Cookie Monster Singing School. RAWR RAWR RAWR!

ha! man, that made me laugh. that's a great line.

The Le Duo said...

if you liked the music of 'tell no one' you should check out a now defunct local band called 'the cancer conspiracy' no cookie monsters or muppets of any kind.


Neil said...

Whew! Finally someone who's not totally licking our balls. Refreshing. I was actually kinda waiting to hear something like this somewhere. So... thanks!

Flatlander said...

Neil, I always aim to please. Glad you liked it.

By the way, I like your solo stuff more than The Pants. When's the new album coming out?

casey said...

Those are some insightful observations. But once those songs get their hooks in you, it's all over. Lyrically and melodically, they just never seem to get old. At least for me.

For old fans, it was an orgasmic experience. I know it's a tall order to get kids to listen to discs with the warts of decade-old recording technology. Nevertheless, I hope some new folks turn on to these great tunes.

And yes Neil, you are a damn fine songwriter yourself.

Neil said...

Aw, you guys sure know how to charm.

Still focusing on getting the album finished, then will consider how to get it out there. All of this amidst other rockin', of course!