For a Saturday night, The Republic was pretty vacant when I arrived shortly before the first co-headliner of the evening, Swervedriver, took the stage. Being somewhat of a music nerd, I had obviously heard of SD before, but I hadn’t ever delved deep into their discography. Honestly I wasn’t sure what to expect, and after seeing them, I’m not sure what to think. The songs sounded good, albeit a little dated, but it wasn’t bad at all. To me, SD fills a hole in the category of 90’s rock bands that couldn’t quite get mainstream success, though not without lack of trying. Instead, they became another in the long line of bands that kinda just went away after some early success.
Having said that, they sounded solid and cohesive as they marched through their 75-minute set. Led by Adam Franklin on vocals, with Jimmy Hartridge, Mikey Jones and Mick Quinn, respectively on guitar, drum and bass, they found their groove within the first half hour, and the crowd seemed to become more interested as well. It’s hard selling a co-headliner tour of this kind, when both bands aren’t super known and the price you pay is what you might for a large scale arena or theater show (tickets were $42 at the door), but no one really seemed to mind. The venue wasn’t packed, but by the end of SD it had filled out considerably. All things aside, it was enjoyable and I’m glad I saw them, but they did have a few missteps, though that likely wasn’t the band’s fault. The sound at first was a little too thick and reverb heavy, and the lights didn’t quite sync up with the mood of the music, but they delivered where it counted, which was in the music department.
Thinking over it though, I can understand why they didn’t gain more popularity during their formative years. For most punk fans of noise, they aren’t as heavy as My Bloody Valentine or Low, but in America, they would’ve been lumped in with cliche 90’s bands, which also doesn’t fit. It’s a distinct sound mixing heavy cords with somewhat funky grooves, and some songs are way poppier than what the band is mostly known for. For all it’s worth though, it was an enjoyable show, and I’m glad I showed up early enough to see if everything I had heard about them was true. It was. They were enjoyable, to say the least.
Next up was Failure, hailing from Los Angeles. The band, much like Swervedriver before them, never got the attention or high acclaim that perhaps they should’ve gotten. My earliest memory of the band was their cover of the Depeche Mode classic “Enjoy the Silence,” and I was instantly drawn to the alt-rock stylings the band had at its disposal. Many others know of them from “The Nurse Who Loved Me,” which then became a cover for a little band called A Perfect Circle. Sadly, most people know them from that, and not from their sound, songwriting, and presentation. Unfortunately, neither of those songs were presented during their performance, but it is what it is.
By the time the band took the stage, a much more full crowd was present, especially considering nearly no one was here during the opening moments of the previous set. Nonetheless, the band emerged behind a thick wall of smoke and a fiery intro take, and the crowd was happy to have them finally take the stage. Opening with the thick, clunky heaviness of “Solar Eyes,” was a good choice, and pretty much set them up for success. From there we got more than a few cuts from their new not amazing album “In the Future Your Body will be the Furthest Thing from my Mind.” The songs sounded better onstage than on record, but that’s kind of the point I guess. In hindsight, and even though this is a “double bill,” you can tell the crowd was more into Failure, with just cause. The lights were more in tune with their music than the previous band had the luxury of, and honestly, the overall sound was much better for Failure than it was for SD, which is unfortunate but understandable. The band didn’t waste much time between songs, choosing instead to let their forceful motivated music do the talking. Overall, the crowd was very much engaged for all of Failure’s 75-minute set, and I was converted to a fan that can’t wait to dive deep into the world created by Ken Andrews and company.
Photos by Steve Hatley