January 26, 2005 - Chop Suey - Seattle, WA
by Brian Connolly
There are many bands that have that one member who doesn't really do much. You probably wouldn't notice if he was there or not because, honestly, if that cowbell doesn't get hit with the drumstick every fourth note no one is going to care. Wolf Eyes has that guy who just seems to stand around and hit various things with a hammer. Do Make Say Think has that one guy who comes in every once in a while to play the saxaphone. The Rapture has that dude who plays sax and the occasional cowbell. How these people get into bands is beyond me but something tells me it involves being good friends with the person who makes decisions for the band and having nothing better to do than sit around in a van for six months while on tour.
As Radio 4 opened for Elephant at the Chop Suey, I thought I spied one of those lackluster band members from the get-go. He rolled out of backstage and quickly positioned himself behind a slew of auxiliary percussion items- cowbells, wooden blocks, a floor tom, two congas. This guy was destined to be an expendable member. He didn't even play an instrument that could render distinguishable notes.
Turns out, this guy was the coolest part of the whole band. He pretty much set the pace for the music and backed it up with some of the most furious conga playing I've ever witnessed. He was zigging when I thought for sure he'd zag and throwing curve balls right in my face by pulling out more notes from those two drums than I ever thought possible. I swear to God, he could have played an entire scale of notes on one of those things. Without this man's auxiliary percussion skills, this band would come off as a shameless rip off of the Scissor Sisters (sans the estrogen). Sure, the inclusion of the auxiliary percussion makes most people think they're a shameless rip off of !!!, but that isn't the point. The point is, the man with the golden hands sure can groove.
Before the show, I'd never heard Radio 4 but now I'm a firm believer in their New York City sound. It's powerful and upfront and a quick glance at the song titles and lyrics show they have something to say and dammit, they're saying it. I picked up a copy of their new record Stealing Of A Nation (AstralWerks) and highly recommend "Transmission," "Party Crashers," and "The Death Of American Radio."
Following the rousing set by Radio 4, Elefant took the stage and brought the whole mood down. Seems odd to me that they would tour with a rockin' band like Radio 4 because Elefant is like The Killers on a quaalude. I don't know if the lead singer is actually trying to sound like Davey Jones from The Monkees, but damn if he doesn't do a dead-on impression. After shaking my slender hips to Radio 4, I almost didn't want to stick around for an hour to listen to this guy croon on about god-knows-what.
This was just one of those shows where the line-up is flipped around in your mind. In my head, it was a Radio 4 show with Elefant just showing up later. It's not that Elefant doesn't play music that makes me want to dance (I like plenty of bands that make me want to sleep and/or die), it's that they just weren't very good. The music was outright boring and uninspired. Pity for them, they have a cool name.