Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hotdog Sandwich, Point Break 2 and Vanity Theft @ the Shredder (5/28/12)

I was very excited about this show.  I write that a lot, I know, but I've been looking forward to seeing Vanity Theft again since I saw them play with Hunter Valentine and Sick of Sarah at Neurolux last year.  The latter two bands were okay--as I've written before, it always does my heart good to see women rocking out--but this quartet from Dayton, Ohio was something special.

If there's any justice in this world, Vanity Theft will soon be tormenting the ears of any hipper-than-thou type who dares turn on the car radio or set foot inside a shopping mall.  The songs on their 2010 album Get What You Came For suit to a tee my ideal of pop-rock: the tunes and hooks grab your ears and don't let go, the riffs and rhythms get your heart pumping and your hips shaking, and the singing sends a tingle right down your spine and into your unmentionables.  And best of all, you don't need to switch off your brain in order to enjoy them (quite the opposite, in fact).  While the youthful hedonism, bad romance and oh-snap sass of the lyrics may call to mind the Donnas or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the touch of sly deadpan in Alicia Grodecki's strong, throaty delivery suggests a maturity and sophistication beyond those groups.  "Live it up while you can, kids," her singing seems to say, "cuz it ain't gonna last forever."

I grew a little concerned when I got to the Shredder and found only a handful of people inside ("Not even sure if these folks are members of bands or road/merch crew or something," I wrote in my notebook).  Happily, enough people showed up to form a not-bad crowd for a Monday night.  They stayed for the entire show, moved right up to the front of the stage when Vanity Theft came on and danced their butts off during their set.  Like the fella said, "Fit audience let me find though few."

First up for the night was Hotdog Sandwich, a local bass-and-drums duo.  They sounded kinda ragged for a band that claimed to have been around for fifteen years: their second song had not one but two false starts, and their groove came slightly unglued here and there.  Overall, however, their grungy, catchy punk-tunes went down just fine.  Their massive Krist Novoselic-esque basslines and John Bonham-esque drumming took me back to those halcyon days of my youth when alt-rock ruled the airwaves and MTV played music at times other than 5 AM.

Local three-man band Point Break 2 followed Hotdog Sandwich.  Their instrumental rock played out striaghtforwardly: slow-fast-slow tempo shifts; simple, solid riffs and tunes; grounding bass; effectively minimalistic drumming (the guy played one-handed); pleasant, clean guitar tone.  They didn't command active listening the way that Red Hands Black Feet does, but I imagined that they'd do fine as background music.  Also, I gave them bonus points for having that GREAT name.

After Point Break 2 came Vanity Theft, who more than justified my esteem.  The songs off their new EP, The Right Amount of Distance, matched those from Get What You Came For in tunefulness and danceability.  Strutting around the stage (as much as she could, anyway--not much space up there), playing with her wavy brown hair, tinkling on her white keytar and belting out the songs in her low, sexy voice, Alicia Grodecki showed the confidence and charisma of the born frontperson.  Guitarist Brittany Hill played Keith Richards to Grodecki's Mick Jagger, pitching in with backup vocals and bending low to slash out the terse, irresistible riffs.  New guy Daniel Sahagun's driving, unobtrusive basslines kept the music pressing forward in the great tradition of Bill Wyman.  Last but not least, Elyse Driskill's high-energy drumming dared the audience not to move their feet (my picture doesn't convey how badly the audience lost that dare).

I'll go on the record with this right now: if you don't know Vanity Theft, you will soon.

You can find info about Vanity Theft on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Also, I've got a bright, shiny dime for the first person to tell me who I quoted earlier in this post (no, you can't just Google it).

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