Two Door Cinema Club, Friends House of Blues October 13, 2012
With the Austin City Limits Music Festival going on a scant 162 miles to the west, it would have been understandable if, as sometimes happens, the young indie-rock crowd were somewhat diminished on Saturday night.
That, however, was not the case. When Rocks Off arrived just in time for opening act Friends, we were a little surprised to see the show sold out. But okay, the House of Blues is a popular venue and tickets weren't very expensive, so maybe the place had filled up with HOB regulars who had maybe heard one Two Door Cinema Club song on a soundtrack or in a commercial or something. Right?
Right off the bat things were weird -- Friends sounded off-key, which we'll have to attribute to some kind of sound-system problem because whatever happened, it was corrected by the second song. A bouncy, enthusiastic sextet if we're meant to include "bongo player" and "guy who just dances" as full-fledged band members, Friends pulled most of the crowd in with their disarming friendliness and playful, utterly non-threatening sexuality. The "guy who just dances" had his shirt tied up, and the female singer loved to squeak and squeal to punctuate the lyrics, and that was about as ribald as it got.
They got the house lights turned up to record the crowd on what looked like an old-school VHS recorder, not unlike the kind I've got collecting dust in my closet, which I received for my 18th birthday in 1997. They invited the audience to clap and sing along, and even if their particular brand of theatricality struck an aging concert-goer as sort of silly, it was hard not to find them charming. Just a band full of nice kids whose sound lies somewhere between MGMT and early Oingo Boingo.
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In any case, they certainly exceled at their "warming up the crowd" duties, because the crowd was buzzing with rare excitement during the brief wait for the headliner. We can't remember the last time we saw an entire crowd singing along with the house music, but we suppose an energetic opening act and the Beastie Boys' "Fight For Your Right (To Party)" will do that to people.
Sure enough, when Two Door Cinema Club hit the stage, the cheers were deafening. As they launched into their opening song, the crowd exploded, jumping up and down, cheering, and singing along. It became apparent: this wasn't a coincidence or just a bunch of HOB regulars. Two Door Cinema Club really does have that many hardcore fans in Houston.
These kids -- average age: 21 or so -- knew the words to all of the songs and sang along eagerly. They danced their asses off and threw their hands in the air and cheered their throats raw. Phones were only out to take pictures and record footage, very rarely to text.
Two Door Cinema Club put on a really good show, and while we'd hesitate to call it the best show we've ever seen at House of Blues, it was far and away the best audience. At a venue notorious for its patrons' tendency to talk over the music and ignore what's going on onstage, these young folks were refreshingly devoted and rapt. Even the people in the roped-off private dining area were all jammed together at the front railing, enthralled.
Two Door Cinema Club themselves seemed taken aback. Singer Alex Trimble didn't talk much in between songs, but when he did, it was nearly always to comment with audible awe on the crowd's spirit. "Houston, we do this every night, but tonight, you've blown me away," he remarked towards the end of the set.
The band must be a bigger deal than we had guessed. Their stage show was top-notch, with a giant art-deco backdrop consisting of a large V lined on both sides by rows of lights. It's not hard to see the appeal of their music, which is commercial-friendly indie-pop that manages to be extremely accessible without being dumb.
The songs are structured without excess or bloat, and yet that guitarist -- Sam Halliday -- can shred and riff his heart out. His fingers never seem to leave the very upper portion of the guitar neck, and if you watch him for long enough, you start to catch on to how his guitar work shapes the band into something special. Honestly, his sound and style reminds us a lot of The Edge.
They blasted straight from song to song with very little banter in between and left the stage in the classic ritual of encore: you pretend you're done, we hang around, and you come back out and do a few more songs. Except the audience acted like it was anything but rote. "ONE MORE SONG!" they chanted whole-heartedly, and if there was no such thing as an encore, Two Door Cinema Club would have had to invent it on the spot.
Personal Bias: Had never heard a single note from the band before earlier this month, when we became quite enraptured with their new album, Beacon.
The Crowd: Oh man. The crowd of every band's dreams.
Overheard In the Crowd: "That guy's shirt says 'PARTY WAVE.'" "That guy IS a Party Wave."
Random Notebook Dump: Had to keep an eye on Party Wave, actually -- he was way more into dancing than the girl he was dancing... with? At? Anyway, we were relieved to find he was just having a good time.
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