Failure at Varsity Theater, 5/21/14

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Mark N. Kartarik

Varsity Theater, Minneapolis
Wednesday, May 21, 2014

After a ten-minute film intro (there was no opening band) that included clips from, among other things, the 1975 Russian art-house film The Mirror, 2001: A Space Odyssey, the classic "Space Madness" episode of Nickelodeon's Ren and Stimpy and the opening scene from The Spy Who Loved Me, Failure took the stage at the roughly 3/4 full Varsity on Wednesday night to a barrage of cheers and whistles.

It's been 22 years since their debut, Comfort, was released but it certainly didn't sound like it as they opened the night's two-hour set with a note-perfect version of "Another Space Song" from their 1996 magnum opus, Fantastic Planet.

From there they moved into "Frogs" from 1994's Magnified and like so many bands before them, it was quite obvious already that Failure was criminally overlooked during their first go-round. The magnificent harmonics; the skull crushing basslines from Ken Andrews; the tattered, angular guitar riffs offered by Greg Edwards, to say nothing of Kellii Scott's precise, thunderous drumming. Seeing the band again some 20 years later, the wide influence they had was immediately obvious, as many of the songs contained passages that sounded like everything from TV On the Radio to the War On Drugs. "Sergeant Politeness" kept the audio assault moving at a roughly pedal to the floor speed, while "Dirty Blue Balloons" cemented itself as one the bands best songs and possibly the best '90s alt-rock tongue twister title.

Photos by Mark N. Kartarik
Which brings up another "Failure did it best" occurrence: They were a precursor to the Decemberists in a way, in that if you told people you listened to them, it came with a certain cache. You thought about things deeply, maybe -- or at least seemed to -- and could probably talk at length about H.P. Lovecraft's works. You probably weren't smarter than the guy next to you, mind you, but seeming like it was all that mattered and Failure lent a massive helping hand.

The band wrapped up the first part of the night with "Pillowhead" and "The Nurse Who Loved Me, " Andrews announcing they'd be back after a short break as a green and black digital clock appeared on the projection screen behind them and began counting down from 15:00.

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