Monday, April 9
While rock fans on one side of town filled up the Key>"/>
Monday, April 9 The Neptune
Band of Skulls, We Are Augustines
Monday, April 9
While rock fans on one side of town filled up the Key Arena for the angular, tripped-out jams of Radiohead, the Neptune in the U-District played host to another cranium-referencing British rock act on Monday night, Band of Skulls. And though the Southampton, England trio aren't yet ready for basketball arenas, their blues-soaked, harmony-rich alt-rock won't be contained by rooms as small as the Neptune for long.
Touring in support of their latest LP, Sweet Sour, the power trio forgo the abstract and high-mindedness of Radiohead for a more straight ahead, foot-stomping rock sound, blending muscular riffs with the tuneful male-female vocals of guitarist Russell Marsden and bassist Emma Richardson. And just because musicologists won't pore over every riff of the Skulls catalog doesn't mean the band's best moments aren't just as majestic. And besides, Sour's "Bruises" could easily have been a B-side from The Bends anyway.
The band operates in two modes. The first, the rocking one, conjures The Black Keys and Jack White, particularly The Dead Weather, and especially that band's ass-shaking riffage. The band's other songs are more traditional-sounding alt-rock with big hooks and a number of ballads. Lyrically, Band of Skulls use the words to service the songs mostly, not the other way around, which does make for some catchy sing-alongs, like the chorus to "Sweet Sour," which opened the show. "Sour by the minute," Marsdon and Richarson sing in unison, "But you're sweeter by the hour."
The trio, who dressed all in black Monday night, played nearly all the songs from their two full-lengths during their set. They played beneath a giant Band of Skulls banner, but beyond that it was just a fog machine, some moody lights and a tight rock & roll set. There wasn't a lot of banter, no stories or dedications, just a few thank yous and a brief mention of their last Seattle show at The Crocodile. The crowd sang along, bouncing up and down during the faster numbers, and even got a pit going for a few moments. A lone stage diver hopped onto the stage during "Death by Diamonds and Pearls," the last song before the encore, but the crowd wasn't dense enough near the stage to prevent the enthusiastic fan from hitting the floor hard as he leaped into the crowd to find them parting like the Red Sea. The Skulls were efficient, if not brilliant on Monday night, but they aren't trying to change the world, after all. They just want to make it a little bit more rocking.
We Are Augustines, a Brooklyn trio, played an enthusiastic support set -- and the room seemed to house plenty of their fans. The Augustines are led by Billy McCarthy, a great frontman, who, despite the band's dark material (much of their debut, Rise Ye Sunken Ships, revolves around McCarthy's relationship to his late schizophrenic brother who hanged himself), couldn't resist grinning throughout the set. McCarthy's powerful rasp anchored the band's material, which falls somewhere between The Arcade Fire and The Gaslight Anthem, and his enjoyment was written all over his face.
Guitar center: Marsden played a gorgeous collection of guitars, swapping them every couple of songs. His pair of Gretsch's in particular were downright drool-worthy.
Wine-o: Richardson played a unique percussion item during the set: what appeared to be a wine bottle turned upside down on a mike stand.