The Night Beats - "Shadows in the Night"
The following is as much a review as it is an explanation of my motives to all of the friends I ran into at the Croc on Friday night who thought I was certifiably insane for ditching out on the insanely packed, fire hazard of a spectacle that was Brent Amaker's CD release show. In fact, the only band that could possibly have lured me away from Mr. Amaker's debauched hootenanny was the Night Beats. These guys sound like they took soul music to the garage, roughed it up, gave it a greaser hairdo and then strapped it into a chair and forced it to listen to nothing but Lou Reed, the Electric Prunes and Roky Erickson at top volume for two weeks straight...followed by a Mahalia Jackson and Otis Redding comedown.
Still, I almost paid dearly for my betrayal of Brent Amaker when my friend showed up forty minutes late to pick me up from the Croc. And if the Escalator Fest powers-that-be had stuck to their posted set times, we would have. Fortunately, the Lo-Fi was running just as late as we were. We walk into the back room to find the Night Beats still tangled in the throes of sound check: Danny Rajan yipped shrilly into the microphone while James Traeger futzed with his drums, casting his gorgeous blonde Samson locks like fishing line at the audience. My friend and I agree that he is probably the most beautiful man either of us have ever seen, then zone out until the band jolts us back to attention with a crack about how they enjoy mouth-to-muff contact. "We're so grunge," bassist Tarek Wagner says. Although the most grunge thing about them is probably the drummer's hair.He probably has a membership card in his wallet that grants him access to the panties of every straight woman in Seattle, if not the continental United States. I'm gawking and not just because there's not a whole hell of a lot else to pay attention to other than the bizarre sounds issuing forth from Rajan's sneering face.
When the band actually gets to playing I am baffled as to why every single person in the room is not doing like Morrissey and oscillating wildly to this heady, ominous rock and roll. While I am standing there thinking something along the lines of, "Yep, the Night Beats are pretty much the best band in Seattle," the rest of the crowd is practically comatose. Of course, the room's gender ratio is also heavily skewed in favor of penis by a margin of about 4 to 1, which is somewhat perplexing what with the music's ass-shaking potential and the very handsome drummer (to be fair, the rest of the band's not bad to look at, either). A squall of feedback howls over and around the melody like a tornado in the air, threatening to become an unholy squeal but it never does. Instead the bouncy garage rock and roll wobbles invisibly around us like the animated yellow belly dancer undulating on the screen behind the band.
I set my drink down on the card table behind me (which I will later knock over with my overzealous grooving; the mess will be cleaned up by myself and the kind hippie behind the merch table who appears bemused, rather than annoyed, at my clumsiness). The band squalls and sneers and snipes at us. Their songs maintain the unrehearsed, loose spirit of garage rock and roll, but the band's tight, synchronized performances make it clear that these songs have been painstakingly crafted to create the illusion of imprecision and chaos. When the band finishes, it is abrupt and without warning, sort of like being jolted awake by the cat and realizing that the sexy friend you were making out with in your dream isn't even remotely interested in you in the real world.
My friend and I stick around for the rest of Escalator Fest, but to us the Night Beats are clearly the festival's true headliners even though they're the third-to-last band on the bill. Nothing happens for the rest of the evening that comes close to topping their nonchalant performance, and when I try to get on Trouble in Mind Records' page the next day in hopes of buying the vinyl I didn't have enough cash for the night before, I am met with a message telling me that the page's bandwidth limit has been exceeded. This persists for the rest of the day. Whether it's because the Night Beats have made the same impression on so many people to crash Trouble in Mind's website or not remains to be seen, but it convinces me of one thing: the band will not be playing shows at venues like the Lo-Fi (or the Comet Tavern, where they're playing on November 21) much longer.