Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Despite technical difficulties, the boys in the bathtub deliver a memorable set

photo by Bob Nanna

I’ll admit it. I’m a huge Aloha fan. Wanna fight about it?

I’d been looking forward to their Subterranean show for what seemed like months so once Anathallo had finished their impressive set (so many people on that small stage at once, moving to one specific end. Hard not to be impressed!), I spared little time squirming and gently nudging my way through the crowd to the front. Miraculously, within what seemed like a lightning fast set change, it was time for them to get to it.

When I last bid Aloha to these guys, we were in Singapore, as they were headlining a stage at the yearly Baybeats festival in August and in a gross miscalculation of popularity, I was headlining the stage two over. I watched their set from a bridge overlooking the bay and the music seemed a perfect fit. A grand display of musical virtuosity in a grand setting. Calgon, take me away.

No offense, Subterranean, but Marina Bay, Singapore, you ain’t. Thankfully now smokeless, you’ll have to do. 4 swift clicks brought one of the standout tracks from Here Comes Everyone, “Boys in the Bathtub.” Tony Cavallario and TJ Lipple sat at the front of the stage manning the dual keyboards, new touring bassist Nick Anderson pounded out the pummeling bass, and drum whiz Cale Parks gave the song a jolt of urgency. With the words “If I had my way, I’d just turn back the clock” still mockingly ringing in the air, TJ’s amp broke, thus ceasing the set’s momentum after just the first song.

Aloha structures their live sets as continuous music. After each song, they flow right into an interlude while some instruments are switched, some are tuned. When something major backfires, it’s troubling… and the mostly toasted, talkative crowd with no musical distractions heads to the bar or begins conversations they have no intention of ceasing once the show begins again. Such is way of the small rock club. A few songs back into the set, with Cavallario now on guitar and Lipple on Marimba, they were finally back into the swing, ripping through the old but relevant “Let Your Head Hang Low,” the Some Echoes opening opus, “Brace Your Face,” and the newest addition to the Aloha catalogue of classics, “Body Buzz.” A good portion of the crowd stuck with ‘em, including a gentleman right in front of me who sang every lyric as if he himself were on stage.

They ended their set with crowd favorite “You’ve Escaped” and before the applause died down and everyone dispersed, they awkwardly rushed back onstage for an encore. A strange decision, I thought, as it was getting late and although I could sit and watch them for another hour, the natives seemed to be getting restless. You wouldn’t fucking believe what happened next. They played my favorite song and dedicated it to ME. I nearly lost my mind, kind reader. “Ferocious Love” is one of those songs I’d like to have played at my wedding. And with the fast paced “Mountain,” the show was over.

Yeah, maybe I’ve got Aloha problems but trust me, I don’t get like this for just any band - just the really good ones that stick with it. Despite adversity, lineup changes, technical difficulties, and a relatively small (but slowly growing) dedicated audience, they are constantly on the road, recording, and producing amazing music where other bands have folded under the pressure of trying to attain an unrealistic level of acclaim. Good for them. And good for us. – Bob Nanna