France Camp EP release at 7th Street Entry, 12/14/13
France Camp EP Release Show
with Frankie Teardrop, Hollow Boys and Teenage Moods
7th Street Entry, Minneapolis
Saturday, December 14, 2013
When was the last time you saw the stage at the Entry truly trashed? Once upon a time, not long ago, First Ave's little room was known as one of the scuzziest in the Cities, but these days it's as clean and professional as they come. Or at least, it was, until France Camp and his merry men hit the stage Saturday night. As they turned off their amps and packed up, the soupy mixture of spilled booze, popped balloons, spit, sweat, and crushed beer cans littered every surface. It was actually kind of heartwarming -- as long you're not one of the poor staff who had to clean it up.
So who started this mess anyway? That'd be our new buddy Frankie Teardrop, who was a great choice of opener on a night that was destined to be filled with lots of loud, fuzzy guitars and catchy hooks. Like France Camp, they're a band named after their frontman's outsized persona, but neither group is a one-man show. Backed by the combined powers of Gunnar Kauth from Phantom Vibration and Jackson Woolsey of Gloss, Frankie's got a muscular rhythm section to bounce riffs off of.
With the aloof, stoned charm of a Midwestern FIDLAR, Frankie Teardrop is all about instant-gratification hooks with an extra helping of distortion. Songs like "Lines" and "Chicago" revel surfy guitar licks and shout-along choruses and then get the hell out of the way to make room for the next one. Throw in a surprise cover of Grimes' "Oblivion" that beats the hell out of the original and you've got a recipe for a seriously entertaining set.
As Hollow Boys took the stage and their leading man Ali Jaafar took his customary position with his back facing the audience, it became clear that the night was going to be a race to see which group could give the smallest portion of a fuck about the crowd. But that's all part of Hollow Boys' live shtick, which is somewhat different from what you might expect if you'd only heard the awesome new record It's True.
As an artist who moonlights as an engineer and recording studio owner, Jaafar's a whiz at making his band's records sound deeply layered, despite the relatively simple instrumentation. Live, that sort of goes out the window in favor of a gloomy, punishing salvo of feedback and sludge, delivered with no banter or breaks whatsoever. New bassist Cole Benson was seen to occasionally acknowledge that there were other people in the room, but Jaafar and drummer Monica Coleslaw definitely kept things unsmilingly dour.
Still, it's an undeniably effective way to operate for the band. By refusing to posture, Hollow Boys make sure your full attention is on their songs, and the material really does stand up to that kind of attention. Weaving vunerable, almost dreamy Robert Smith-esque hooks into pulverizing shoegaze guitar, the band plays bittersweet better than a lot groups that try to strike that balance.
Teenage Moods were up next, which is kind of funny considering they're almost the flipside of Hollow Boys' gloominess. Sugar-sweet twee-punk delivered with a goofy grin, they're the kind of band that writes songs about the life cycle of a friendly little plastic bag. They're goddamn adorable and they're not about to apologize for it. But they're also a tight garage-pop three-piece too, with strong playing from all sides including guitarist and singer Gordon Byrd, bassist Jillian, and new drummer Nikki. Delivering some seriously smokin' new material that sounds like the Nerves with a modern twist, along with some of their older favorites like the irresistible "Tulip Tattoo," Teenage Moods were the perfect chaser to the previous groups.
While France Camp has already started to gain a reputation for alcohol-fueled depravity at their shows, they're actually really sweet boys deep down. Why else would they have had something as wholesome as a raffle for prizes at their merch table? It's doubtful anyone wore a Christmas sweater with as much style as guitarist James Wolfeatens. They even dedicated the show to Kwanza before things got underway, but as soon as they banged out the opening chords of "Let's Roll," the nice-guy vibe got put on hold.
France Camp (the man) was once the frontman for buzzworthy indie-pop group Nice Purse and even served as the bassist for Howler during their first big tour, so the guy obviously knows his way around a stage. Unlike the other groups, though, his self-titled band finally feels like the proper platform for his unique, unhinged charisma. He's the antithesis of the macho-power-stance singer archetype, scattering around the stage, always seemingly two steps from collapsing. The wildness was infectious, and quickly spread to the crowd, which was packed to the gills and contained more than a few rowdy morons trying to incite violence before the second song had even started. Despite his masochistic stage antics, France was having none of that. "Moshing is a friendly thing! I compare it to sex. Practice safe sex, kids!"