Free Energy ::: Press Photo
First impressions are meant for job interviews, not the music business. In case you’re like millions of other Americans and myself, you forgot what it’s like to go to a job interview. Let me refresh your memory. A job interview is when you dress up, go to the location of the job you are applying for and proceed to tell the person (or people) interviewing you why you should be hired. You’re the best. You work really hard and never sleep. You say your prayers and eat your vitamins. You’ll say whatever gets you a paycheck. Sometimes the gamble pays off but more often than not, especially nowadays, you’re just not what they’re looking for.
So when I saw Salmon Thrasher’s first show at my neighborhood bar, Café Racer, I didn’t let my first impression of them be my final one. It was a weird show. There were some technical difficulties, the songs sounded like they were still coming together and I remember at one point, a piece of the ceiling fell down upon them during their set. Sigh. Why is it that first shows always feel the weirdest? Flash forward a couple months and this band is legit. They sounded especially tight on Chop Suey’s stage. Chugga-chugga-choo-choo they were a well oiled machine. The only thing I ask is when they are done putting together their album; I want them to use a salmon shredding a half-pipe on the cover. If you’re going to use a name like Salmon Thrasher for your band, you’ve got to take advantage of all the literal imagery you can to represent your band.
Next on stage was Philadelphia’s Free Energy, a band who is currently on tour with the night’s headliner, Foreign Born. Now before I completely rip this band to pieces, I want to start with the positives. These dudes can all play their instruments, the lead guitarist in particular. They write songs that sound great. What I mean by that is, the songs they write sound good, but the actual songs are pretty forgettable. When you listen to this band on Myspace you think “I mean this isn’t the worst thing ever, just kind of sounds like a band that really likes the Strokes, playing Battle of the Bands in suburbia somewhere…” I mean we’ve all heard bands like that. However, the thing that really hurts Free Energy is their live show. Too much posturing, at points I thought I was watching (and I’m totally_fucking_serious) the Jonas Brothers or a skinny jean version of Hanson. It was one of the most inauthentic performances I’ve ever seen. Rock n’ roll should never be this harmless, especially if you’re from Philly. At times I felt completely emasculated just watching these dudes. And it’s sad, because bands like this get to play good shows and huge festivals like SXSW, all the time. And for what..? Because they might have some sort of mass appeal that in all probability won’t actually be realized? Sure, bro. Free Energy might want to do something about this little problem of theirs. Maybe they should just become the Beatles and stop touring? All I know, judging from the other night, onstage they look like some guys who are in a band for the sake of saying that they’re in a band. So I guess it was fitting that they played a show on Capitol Hill. With all that being said, I’m not going to let my first impression be my final one. If I have a chance to see Free Energy again, I’ll take that chance. I wouldn’t mind them proving me wrong.
Foreign Born were much different than the rock n’ roll switchblade riot that is Salmon Thrasher and the Hello Kitty pop of Free Energy. They had this “We kind of sound like Yeasayer, if you’re really not into that first Yeasayer album,” thing going on. The lead singer kept on reminding of Bono. I blame it on the hat he was wearing and the acoustic guitar he was strumming in the forefront. At one point he was harassed by a drunkard who was wearing an Ozzfest shirt, and needless to say, the Ozzfest guy was obviously at the wrong show. Foreign Born was certainly different and interesting. “Vacationing People” was my favorite song that they played. The band has a lot of elements within it, but none of them go outside their boundaries. I say that to mean they’re completely complimentary: everyone is doing what they have to do to make the song sound as good as it can. I can appreciate that because it’s much easier said than done, and especially when egos can potentially get in the way. Foreign Born, I salute you.