Friday, March 21, 2008

The Raveonettes at the Double Door 3/18/08

The Double Door is a legendary music venue in Chicago, and more than lives up to the reputation. Unlike Schuba’s, it’s not a bar with a concert venue attached, it’s both at once, a full bar with a stage off along the side wall. It’s about as intimate as you can see a concert these day, a few hundred people crammed around among the pillars and stools. There’s a small area in front of the stage for standing, but the majority of the audience is scattered around the room, many with pretty crappy views. A bar show in the most stereotypical sense of the phrase…and my new favorite music venue. It’s low-key, musicians and technicians milling around the stage mid-show (you apparently have to walk across the stage to get from the bar to backstage), a stage so small even a three-piece band found themselves with little room to move.

First up were Black Acid, opening for The Raveonettes this whole tour. They were so decidedly unimpressive I assumed they must be some local group though. They were essentially a Nirvana tribute band not playing Nirvana songs. The mannerisms and delivery of the lead singer were Kurt Cobain at his most nasal and angsty. Better him alone than when the others joined in on backing vocals though, all apparently in different keys. Grating at worst, boring at best.

From the moment The Raveonettes came onstage, however, you could tell they were going to be different. A duo from Denmark, they struck an unusual image. On stage right, guitarist Sune Rose Wagner wore an emo-tastic black and white striped shirt, five sizes too small on his absurdly skinny frame. On stage right, other guitarist Sharin Foo looked like a Norse goddess, towering above Wagner with albino-blonde hair a dress made entirely of sequins. Though they technically are The Raveonettes, an tiny but intense female drummer joined them. Though she only played two drums and a cymbal, she pounded them for all she was worth.

If the image is somewhat strange, the music fits it. Indie-pop with an edge, it sounds straight out of a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack. Fifties songs updates for the new millennium, there was plenty of dissonant guitar noise for its own sake, but always with a purpose. No song clocked it much over three minutes, and with little audience patter they ran through them fast and furious, hitting most songs off their three-week-old album Lust Lust Lust, and throwing in plenty of classics and fan favorites. Songs like “Attack of the Ghost Riders” and “That Great Love Sound” got the stiff crowd moving a bit (but not nearly enough, as the guy who tried to stage dive simply wasn’t caught). The audience didn’t seem as familiar with the new material, unfortunately, as each song is a classic in the making.

They shared vocals on almost every line of every song, their voices combining perfectly to sound less like a duet that a somewhat androgynous lead singer. Their pretty harmonies offset the sometimes jarring guitar attacks (no bass to mellow the sound here), never losing the poppy core of the songs. Occasionally a recorded element would turn up, a xylophone here, a bass guitar there, but and by-and-large they recreated the dense noises on the albums live, often just strumming muted guitar strings to create tuneless rhythm as the drummer pounded out simple beats to propel the songs towards their quick conclusions. The only disappointment of an otherwise excellent set was its length, clocking in at exactly an hour, including encore. With songs this short, too much more might have made them see repetitive, but a group this good deserves to play for longer.

Dead Sound
That Great Love Sound
Let's Rave On
Here Comes Mary
Red Tan
Love In A Trashcan
Attack Of The Ghost Riders
My Tornado
You Want The Candy
Black Satin
The Beat Dies
French Disko (Stereolab cover)
Aly, Walk With Me

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