October 03, 2002

I'm Going to Drive My Car

I've been waiting a long time for this sound.

Spoken by some guy standing behind me in the club to his friend, it was a feeling that seemed to be shared by the sellout crowd that had crammed into the Middle East's downstairs club on Monday to see Interpol on their last U.S. date on this tour. Smoke, heat, bodies... I think the only time I'd felt more claustrophobic at the Middle East was when I saw Beck there in '94, when I wasn't even trying to get anywhere near the stage.

The turnout and the atmosphere was in definite contrast with the band's last swing into Boston, when they played the upstairs club to a good-sized, but intermittently engaged audience of mostly-curious, not-yet full-on fans. But here we are just three months later -- Interpol's debut album is #158 in the Billboard Top 200 chart, there are people outside the club begging for tickets, and I end up having to make my way to the front of the room near the beginning of the first opening band's set just to get in position.

I made my way downstairs near the beginning of the first band's set, having just gotten off the Mass Pike and into Central Square with very little time to spare (serves me right for leaving NYC at 5pm!). Three guys at synths doing the New New Wave thing, but at least not taking it too seriously -- I think they introduced just about every song as, "This is a song about the Future." And they had to deal with a little heckling, including a shouted request for "Chains of Love" (yeah, they were working the Erasure/Depeche Mode vibe a bit). They did close with a cover, apparently a Kajagoogoo song (!), which was enjoyable, but... I just don't see the point of 100% synthesizer music being performed onstage, unless you're going to turn it into a Performance.

As soon as they got offstage, the crowd started getting restless, but then you could practically feel the current of irritation spread through the crowd as everyone realized that yet another band was setting up to go on next. There had only been one advertised opener, Certainly Sir, who turned out to be the band preparing to go on next. After maneuvering myself slightly to squeeeeeeze just a little bit closer to the front, Certainly Sir began to play. Jazzy yet also kind of dance-y mellow pop, with an array of percussion (maracas, tambourine, cowbell, bongos) employed on different songs. Most of the five band members switched on an off instruments, but a constant throughout was electric piano anchored by some damn excellent drumming. A very Disques Du Crepuscule vibe, like a funkier Pale Fountains or French Impressionists, though the sound definitely varied throughout their set.

Another break, another bout of crowd agitation as people all around me began bitching about the lateness of the hour (hello? it's a ROCK SHOW), and everyone did their final round of bag placement, elbow positioning and other maneuvering moves to get into position. By some stroke of luck, the people around me shifted *just so*, leaving me thisclose to the stage, front and center, with only one fellow short girl in front of me. Yeah -- just like at the show in June! So I stood there, feet killing me but happy nonetheless as The Clash blasted from the PA and as Interpol's roadies took forfuckingever to set up their guitars, their mics, their water bottles... Maybe it was because the last time they played the Middle East they had three aborted attempts at playing the opening song due to feedback problems.

Sometime after 11:30 Interpol finally took the stage to an absolute ROAR of applause and cheers, launching into their trademark opening song ("Untitled"). Daniel Kessler's guitar chimes, Paul Banks' sullen croon, Carlos Dengler's bass throb and Sam Fogarino's percussive snap... perfect.

It was more or less the same set as at their Bowery Ballroom show a month earlier, but even tighter, more electric. Part of it was being an arm's length from the stage, part of it the drier, less echo-y sound in the small club, but I think the band was also feeding off of the crowd's energy, as every song was capped by thunderous applause, cheers and (yes) screams. The band appeared startled by the intensity of the response, so much so that Paul actually kept smiling as he stepped up to the mic to thank the crowd. (Later, as they came back for an encore and one person yelled out "Thank you!", Paul immediately responded: "You win Best Crowd.")

So when they did come back on for the inevitable encore (more sustained cheering -- where the hell was the love at the last Boston show when I was just about the only frantically clapping to get the band back onstage for more -- huh, HUH??), we were treated to "Song Seven," which I don't think they're playing as much anymore. I was like "yeah!" admist the mostly blank response around me, as they announced this song as being "from our gray EP," the waaaay unavailable self-released one. Then for the closer, "Obstacle 2." Yes.

Darting over to the merch table as soon as the house lights went up, I got myself one of the styling red Interpol t-shirts -- girl shirt sizes/styles! (Thankyouthankyouthankyou.) Also got a couple of badges. Sadly, that used up the rest of my money, otherwise I would have also gotten a Certainly Sir CD or single, but that's what online record stores are for, right?

I walked back to the car, thinking of the three-and-a-half hour drive back to NYC before me (argh!), passing a very closed Toscannini (I thought they were open late?? no burnt caramel ice cream -- double argh!), stinking like Rock Club... but thinking that no matter how much it sucks to be standing in one spot for over three hours with people's elbows intruding and smoke watering up my eyes, it is worth it every time to get to the front of that stage and drink it all in.

Posted by nstop at October 03, 2002 01:11 AM


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