Little drummer boys

Sound Team, Cold War Kids, and Midlake at T.T.'s
By IAN SANDS  |  July 27, 2006

Last time Cold War Kids were in town, they were on tour with Tapes ’N Tapes. Time before that, it was with Two Gallants. Last night’s show at T.T.’s, the third time they’ve been in Boston this year, they were joined by blog darlings Midlake and Sound Team on a tour that’ll end in Chicago at Lollapalooza. Truth is, despite having released a total of three albums between the three of them -- two of which, Sound Team's Movie Monster (Capitol), and Midlake's The Trials of Van Occupanther (Bellaire) came out within the last two months -- each would probably be considered old news in the blogosphere.

Midlake have been circulating online since the release of their first album, Bamnan and Slivercork (Bella Union), which helps explain how they managed to fill the room, 9:15 slot and all. Their set was pleasant enough, with breezy melodies à la Neil Young, a gaggle of guitars on stage, and a projector screen whose images occasionally proved more interesting than the music. Some technical difficulties in cueing up the video actually delayed the closer. "We could go on without it,” quipped frontman Tim Smith, “but it's a really good video.”

Cold War Kids took the old fashioned approach. Which is to say, they simply played the shit out of the instruments they had to work with. Storming the stage with not a word of introduction, the band sprung to life like some kind of coin-operated entertainment. Lead singer Nathan Willett skimmed his wordy Tom Waitsian verses in true piano-man form on “We Used To Vacation.” But it was guitarist Jonnie Russell who dominated the stage. When not assaulting his guitar and collapsing his body into impossible shapes, the shaggy-faced eccentric frantically banged a moracca against an upturned crate put in place especially for such behavior.

If Willett coasted his way through “We Used To Vacation,” the next track, “Hang Me Out To Dry,” demanded a vocal performance that was less Tom Waits, more Ian Svenonious. Leaving his piano bench during the choruses for the center stage microphone, he thrashed his arms around — not for effect, but, more likely, because he needed something to do with them. This produced more traffic than the band could handle: before long Russell was tripping over wires and generally making a mess of the place. During “Saint John,” Russell tapped at a Pellegrino bottle and even lent some falsetto vocals to the mix. By the time “Hair Down” came, every member of the band had a percussion instrument in his clutches, a situation which served as an unwitting joke on the next band, the aptly named Sound Team, who took the stage six pieces strong.

Indeed, it was a tad disarming to go from piano and Pellegrino bottle percussion to synths galore and a part-time button-pusher in Michael Baird. Still, the band proved to be in fine form, and despite having read multiple reports of crowds thinning out after Cold War Kids, people did, for the most part, stick around. Frontman Matt Oliver — perhaps getting a little overzealous — even pointed to corner of the room where he claimed to have seen some stragglers arrive late to the party. And although he played the good guy, gently reprimanding them for missing the first two bands, I think he was just relishing the fact that two people had actually come to see Sound Team and no one else.

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