Come on, get happy

The Grates & Rogue Wave @ Logan Square Auditorium (9.7.06)

It’s a good thing the mood was as jovial and nearly-weekended as it was in Logan Square Auditorium. As The Grates bopped through their brisk opening track, it was evident there was no room for seriousness, so the jaded and cynical better get on the Fun Train. The Grates are a mostly three, sometimes four piece group from Australia (a roadie or something like one played keys for a couple songs). Singer Patience Hodgson hopped around like a punch drunk Snoopy, even barking for effect. Her high-step dance moves were often more energetic than the music itself, even offering some joi d’vivre for the tunes to feed from. Drummer Alana Skyring (those Aussies have some great names) might as well have been chopping wood with the locktight battering she dealt her kit. And guitarist John Patterson put in just enough effort to spit out pop rock riffs without breaking much of a sweat. The band’s tunes fell somewhere between Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the least aggressive Bikini Kill material: lightweight, smiling and quick to desolve from the mind. Hodgson’s chatty charisma was far more memorable, treating the sometimes silent crowd like pals she’d made over snowcones. The cuteness broke through the meter during the second to last song when she invited two preteen girls to deliver some lyrics (apparently they had also appeared on the recorded version). The battle to win hearts (or at least mine) was won; neither they nor I was concerned with the artistic merit, but rather with a cheery atmosphere The Grates created in which to get merry.

Rogue Wave was able to ride the high spirits for most of the rest of the night. Playing mostly from 2005’s Descended Like Vultures, the band’s sound was a bit more muscled and lively than when recorded. At the same time, handfuls of delicate details were flattened under steady-rockin’ guitar lines and drummer Pat Spurgeon’s well-mic’ed drumwork. One of the most accurate criticisms of the group — that they sound like The Shins’ younger siblings — seemed less fitting. Live, singer Zach Rogue’s pipes call to mind Colin Meloy singing from his mouth rather than the back of his nose, instead of lead Shin, James Mercer. RW were just as sunny as their Albuquerque-brethen and more able to play with back and forth time signatures. The few songs they played from 2004’s Out of the Shadow showed signs of slight evolution: “Every Moment” was less brittle and more like a race to a showy finish line; “Endgame” was now a bruised and bittersweet meditation, dropping the cheesy synth line for some honest to god emotion. Rogue Wave also whisked through two new tunes punchier than all their previous work and just as comfortable to hear. As the night stretched on, the setlist favored slow-burners with unimaginative jam patches — the increase in yawns was exponential. Fun was still on the agenda, especially in the encore, but it was a bit more hug-your-neighbor than swing-your-partner. And after a night of joyous spirits, the warm comedown was appreciated.


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