Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Local H at the Gramercy Theater 5/18/10


Tuesday night’s Local H show carried all the hallmarks of imminent disaster.  The Gramercy Theater bumped up the very much un-sold out show to accommodate a last-minute Stone Temple Pilots appearance later that evening, imposing a 9:30pm curfew on Local H.  “We feel like we’re opening for STP,” frontman Scott Lucas remarked at the beginning of the show, "but we’re not…I don’t think.” 

Then there was the tour’s theme: 6 Angry Records.  The premise is a clever one.  At the beginning of every gig, Lucas hands an audience member a hat containing the names of all six of their records.  The fan picks one randomly, then the band plays that entire record beginning to end.  An ingenious twist on the classic-record tour trend that has infected the music world of late.
   
The Chicago cult duo has six records.  Five of these are beloved by a small by fiercely loyal following.  The sixth is Ham Fisted, their 1995 debut, likely the only album that no audience member was rooting for.

Guess which one got picked. 

The band clearly knew this choice would prove unpopular.  “We thought about rigging the system,” Lucas joked.  “But it’s a slippery slope.  First you’re rigging a hat-pull, then before you know it you’re fucking babies.”
   
So by God they played the Nirvana-aping Ham Fisted beginning to end, treating the audience members who didn’t spend the entire 45 minutes texting to a fiery grunge throwback.  Lucas howled out lyrics no one knew (even he had a cheat sheet) while thrashing at his guitar as if to punish the songs for being so mediocre.  Drummer Brian St. Clair, who didn’t even play on the original, channeled his inner Dave Grohl with the least subtle drumming this side of Animal.  It was only through sheer force of will that the band staved off a trainwreck, but by rocking the subpar tunes as if they were God’s gift to mankind they pulled it off.

After completing the album, the pair rewarded the crowd with a second set of fan favorites like “Hands on the Bible” and “Bound for the Floor.”  “All the Kids Are Right,” a song about fan backlash after an ill-received concert, seemed particularly relevant.  The (relative) hits quickly won back the punk dudes and rocker grrrls, who shouted along with every angsty lyric when they weren’t too busy busting heads in the circle pit.  By encore “Wolf Like Me,” a TV on the Radio cover that went right up to that 9:30 deadline, all sins were forgiven.

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Photo by Michael Alan Goldberg (via Philadelphia Weekly)