Sunday, April 19, 2009

Event Review: Junior Boys at Bimbo's

There was a moment at the Junior Boys show at Bimbo's on Thursday when I thought I had stepped into the filming of a John Hughes movie prom scene: there was the name of the band in neon-like EL wire at the back of the stage, the diffused red spotlight playing over the stage, the smoke machines, the OMD-like tunes, the stone-faced technician working the electronic controls, the lead singer crooning a gentle paean to young love, the swaying bodies of the audience. And, just as in a movie, the performance of the band seemed completely scripted, leading me, Kitty, and the boyfriend wondering what exactly was the point of seeing this band live.

In our household the Junior Boys often get played after a long night, when we're wanting some easy electronics to lull our senses and ease the transition from our evening's activities into sleep. I've never thought of them as particularly rocking, but I hoped that, in a live performance, I'd hear some new aspect of the music. I did, in fact, realize how closely related their sound is to the New Wave ballad, but this isn't exactly what I had hoped for. Like Royksopp, who we also heard at Bimbo's, they played straight-up album versions of every song, though the inclusion of a live drummer was a nice touch (except for those moments when the afore-mentioned technician and the drummer got slightly out of synch with each other).

The workman-like approach to the music might have been made up for in actual performance, but the stage set-up was more reminiscent of a studio layout than an attempt to present the band as living, breathing, emotive human beings. Center stage was a table of electronics and gear, with Johnny Dark working the controls. During the entire show he did not look up, dance to the music, or show any expression beyond focused attention. Jeremy Greenspan, meanwhile, was relegated to a side of the stage, where he spent half the time in shadow as he sang and played guitar. Greenspan has a wonderful voice in the tradition of so many smooth, R&B-influenced crooners, but for the majority of the time his attention was focused on addressing the microphone rather than the audience. There was no chat or banter, just efficient movement from one song to the another, wrapping up in a tidy hour. If I had seen a video of them recording a track, I'm sure it would have looked much like this performance.

The Junior Boys make some of the best shoegazer electro-pop around, but their show at Bimbo's was another lesson in how fantastic studio bands are often challenged by taking their music into a live performance setting. If a band like this is going to take their sound on the road, then there should be something about the live experience that brings something new to hearing the music; otherwise, hearing them from my own stereo is just as satisfying, and far less expensive.

2 comments:

sentientsea said...

The other guy's name is Matt Didemus, and always has been. Johnny Dark has a wonderful name, obviously, but he only did the first demo with Jeremy. Amazingly, major news outlets still make this mistake due to the allure of the JD name. I'm forever sworn to correct this wherever it emerges as I will be eternally guilty for being the 100th person to do it when I met them a few years ago.

The Jaded Gay DJ said...

Ah, thanks for the correction - I was trying to do it from captions to google images, and obviously matched the wrong names to faces.