You Should’ve Been There: Frightened Rabbit / Oxford Collapse at Holocene (PDX), 6/19/08

Photo by David Gourley

So, yeah, I’m a little late with this one. If I don’t blog about something the same night, it can be a while. But today I walked (about) a mile in four-inch (I think) heels to pick up my copy of Frightened Rabbit‘s The Midnight Organ Fight from House of Records, and that seems to call for a blog post. Right? Though I have so many good things to say about this night that I’m not sure where to begin. Perhaps bullet points are in order:

• Holocene: Gorgeous. Lately, every time I go to a new venue in Portland, I love it better than the last new venue — though the Wonder Ballroom may still own my heart. I fell for Hawthorne Theater’s layout, where the drinking oldies and the kids are on the same floor with the bar in the middle, and now for Holocene’s several-room setup. Cement floors, new white walls, the bar in a different room than the stage, a fantastic old-fashioned in hand: brilliance (though for the record, no one should ever make a Sazerac with Ten High. I’m just sayin’).

• Ulterior motive: I had one. An old friend I hadn’t seen in five years is the bassist for the Rabbit’s tourmates, Oxford Collapse, and somehow I’d never seen this band of his play before. It’s always funny to see people you know on stage. As my companion aptly put it, “In a band of crazies, he’s the craziest.” Yes. And “Please Visit Your National Parks” is still the best Collapse song, so go find an MP3. I believe there’s one here. While you’re there, grab the Rabbit’s “Heads Roll Off” and “The Modern Leper,” mmmkay?

• Listening to people in the know: A good idea. Years ago, I learned a valuable lesson: When Chris Newmyer is really into a band, pay attention. Even if he tells you, say, that Les Savy Fav’s name means “the tight pant wearers.” It was my loss that I didn’t see Les Savy Fav sooner, and when he started hitting his mailing list with all kinds of Frightened Rabbit stuff, my ears, um — while speaking (in a way) of bunnies, this is so lame — perked up.

Another FR fan is Pitchfork Senior News Editor Amy Phillips, whom I suspect is the coolest person at Pitchfork. About FR, she wrote, “I can’t explain why this band’s jangly, anthemic indie pop hits me harder than everybody else’s jangly, anthemic indie pop, or why such terrible-on-paper lyrics as ‘you’re the shit and I’m knee-deep in it’ and ‘it takes more than fucking someone you don’t know to keep warm,’ sung by a guy who sounds like the twee Scottish version of Adam Duritz, come across as so profound. I just don’t know. But it works. I can’t stop listening to this album.” Exactly.

• Oh, right. About the show. Four unassuming Scottish men, at least two of them in plaid shirts (and one with Jack White’s hair), take the stage. Portland, or this tiny slice of it (though the show is well-attended), greets them happily. They proceed to be awesome. It really is sort of hard to explain, but it is anthemic indie pop with lyrics that waver all over the damn place; I’m a big fan of the phrase, “I’ll make tiny changes to earth,” but not so much of that fucking line quoted above (though it is followed by “I’m drunk / and I’m drunk, and you’re probably on pills / and if we’ve both got the same diseases / it’s irrelevant, girl!” which is better, in a bleak sort of way). My companion and I yell back and forth: “They’re kind of like Snow Patrol, if Snow Patrol was actually indie rock.” “Yeah, Snow Patrol of the streets.” Um.

But there’s something about these guys. Really. The drummer’s constant motion is hypnotic; the singer has his eyes closed a lot; the wall of distortion has just the right density, and it builds in all the right place. It takes half a dozen songs for us to realize there’s no bass. Nothing is missing. Someone requests “The Twist” and it’s beautiful and it all feels like a scene in a movie when someone’s making a really bad decision but you know they’re going to enjoy it — at least for a little while. It’s a soundtrack to falling in love with the wrong person, sometimes, and other times it’s a blanket of yearning settling heavily on your shoulders. And sometimes it’s the charm of the moderately tough looking drummer singing the funny little “woo-oot-woot” in “Good Arms vs. Bad Arms.” Every so often, I get goosebumps, for no reason whatsoever. And some Portlanders actually sort of move around a little. Fancy that.

They should be your new favorite band. They really should. Here’s the disarmingly charming video for “Heads Fall Off” to help convince you (I’d say this is their most Snow Patrolly song):