Unlike everyone else at Saturday night's sold out Bloc Party show, I was more interested in seeing opener Menomena than Bloc Party. Friend and Foe is one of my favorite albums of all time, one of a very small percentage of "indie rock" records that actually demonstrate how it is still possible to do something new with pop music, rather than make a pleasant imitation of something else with your own personal signature on it. And it's been a source of major irritation for me that the last two times Menomena's played in Seattle, they've opened for major acts that make music that is vastly inferior to theirs. Like the National, one of the most generic bands ever to stumble into popularity.
My feelings about Bloc Party are not quite that strong, but after listening to the crap they put out after Silent Alarm, I probably would not have come to this show if 1) Menomena wasn't opening and 2) my co-worker, who was supposed to be covering this show, hadn't asked me to take her place. Had she been the author of this review, it would've turned out differently. She likes Bloc Party's third album better than anything they've previously done. I think Bloc Party's only popular because the handful of singles they've made that are even slightly in the same ballpark as "good" manage to mask boring, uninspired and repetitive the rest of their music is. A lot of it sounds, to me, like it's about one degree of separation from-- dare I say it?-- Fall Out Boy-brand emo. Yuck.To be completely honest, I might have been a little more generous if my night hadn't gone terribly wrong in every possible way. Not that I have anyone but myself to blame for it. I got to the Showbox at 9 p.m., thinking that doors were at 8. I should have checked, because they were at 7. Which, I came to realize, meant that Menomena had already played. Bloc Party, as it turned out, went on at 9:20. On a Saturday night. I'm not trying to shirk responsibility for my lateness, here, but a headliner going on at 9:20? Really? I showed up at 9 p.m. and I missed the best band on the bill? I know this was an all ages show, but seriously, there were only two bands on the bill to begin with. The only good reason I can come up with for this early bird scheduling is that the average age of a Bloc Party fan is 16. Which actually explains a lot.
When I asked the dude standing next to me if the opening band had been on yet, he said, "Yeah. Bloc Party's about to come on?" "Really?" I said. "Are you serious? It's only 9!" Dude just gave me a pitying look and said, "Yeah, but you didn't miss the REAL concert!" He was obviously stoked. What he didn't know is that in my case, I had missed the "real concert." Because as I watched Bloc Party play song after uninspired, generic pop song, it occurred to me that not only has this band managed to fail at writing any truly stellar songs post-Silent Alarm, they can't actually play their instruments that well, either. Unless Saturday night was a total off night for them, I'm now convinced that Bloc Party must get a lot of help in the studio. Even their better songs, including my favorite Bloc Party song, "Banquet," basically consist of repeating the same few notes over and over again (the few variations they do throw in never stray very far), and the drums tended to stay as consistent as a metronome, which is good if that's what you're going for, but totally uninteresting live. To combat this, the band employed lots of echo-y vocals, strobe lights, and fog. Kind of like a bunch of magicians using fanfare to distract the crowd to make sure no one notices there's nothing that exciting actually going on.
Right about now, I'm sure that anyone who was there and is reading this is headed straight to the comments section to rip me a few new assholes and tell the world what a great time they had, so in fairness I'd just like to say this: There must be something to Bloc Party, because every single other person at the show was totally into it. People were actually crowdsurfing. And at a Bloc Party show! I thought this was very bizarre, but at least it wasn't a bunch of obnoxious too-cool-to-dance folk. It's almost worse to be at a show where the band is good and the crowd sucks than to be at a show where the band sucks and the crowd is enthusiastic.
To sum things up, those who have liked Bloc Party's music post-Silent Alarm probably would've had a great time. The problem is that I do not. Because when I say "my favorite Bloc Party song is 'Banquet,'" I actually mean "'Banquet' is the only Bloc Party song I really actually like." I always thought Silent Alarm was a decent pop record, but the only justification for all the attention it got, in my mind, was that song and maybe "Like Eating Glass." But once the band played "Banquet" about six songs in, I realized that I didn't have any desire to sit through the rest of the show just to see a couple more songs I have tepid feelings about if it meant also listening to a lot more crap and watching all the people around me-- who were totally into it-- look at me like I had two heads for planting my butt in a seat instead of standing up and staring at the back of someone's head just to look like I was a part of things. Not when Dan Deacon-- who puts on the best live show I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing -- is in town. So I left for the Vera Project, hoping against hope that the show wouldn't be sold out. I should've known better.