The Prom – Boston – Middle East Downstairs, MA – 2001-10-26

The Prom
Where: Boston – Middle East Downstairs, MA.

When: 2001-10-26

I found new Weezer, Fugazi and Pedro The Lion seven-inches at the Newbury Comics in Harvard Square before the show, so I was already in a good mood, but then I got to the show and realized what a late night I was in for, thanks to the excessively late set schedule and the one-hour drive home I had to look forward to afterwards. But I tried not to let that spoil things.

The club was sold out, and the majority of the crowd was there early to catch The Prom. The Seattle trio looks kind of like what Ben Folds Five would look like if Ben was heftier, grew bushy sideburns and had a full head of afro-like hair. They also feature the same drums/bass/piano setup as Ben Folds Five, utilize the same style of catchy/geeky/charming songwriting, and toss in plenty of “Oooh la la” and “Doo doo doo” choruses as well. Since I have always loved the Five, I was quite smitten with The Prom. To drag the comparison on even longer, The Prom have similar range as Ben Folds Five, switching from bouncy and poppy songs to slower and sadder ones about love and phone calls that don’t come. A girl behind me mumbled, “This is painful,” in the middle of the set, but I resisted the urge to smack her and instead joined the vast majority of the crowd that was happily bobbing their heads.

In between the two Barsuk bands from Seattle came The Fly Seville, a Boston four-piece with the standard drums/bass/guitar setup, but with a female keyboardist/violinist to spice things up a bit. At first, there was nothing wrong with The Fly Seville. I even chuckled when they spent a few minutes talking about which of their relatives were in the crowd and pointing them out to everyone. They play a style of rather standardized indie pop that was appealing at first but got old quick. The occasional and entirely unnecessary jam session did nothing other than bury the violin and more interesting elements in the mix, while nothing else really stood out. Finally, the lead singer said, “Two more, it’s almost over, thanks guys,” and I applauded. I would have asked them to just stop there, but I didn’t want to embarrass them in front of their families.

Death Cab For Cutie took the stage with plenty of energy, most evident in frontman Ben Gibbard, who flailed around in his own spastic/geeky/fun manner. There were a few sound issues, with the mix being a little off for the first few songs, and Gibbard making multiple requests for the guitar to be turned up in his monitor. Then came his spasm/solo during “Amputations,” during which he angrily flailed at his amp, sounding like he was brutally murdering his guitar. “If I appear a little tweaked, that’s why,” he explained after mentioning problems he had been having with his equipment. Christopher Walla’s occasional spacey guitar effects were beautiful on songs like “The Employment Pages,” while bassist Nicholas Harmer wildly flailed about and drummer Michael Schorr solidly held things together. A dash of keyboards was occasionally tossed in on tracks like “Photobooth,” which helped switch things up a little.

The setlist did a fine job of mixing up the band’s range of material, focusing largely on songs from their new album, The Photo Album. They included songs from every release, as well as an unfamiliar one from a tough-to-find single and an excellent cover of The Eurythmics’ “Here Comes the Rain Again,” which made me quite very old because I had to explain why I was chuckling to a few people. Other highlights included the closer, “405,” which consisted of just Gibbard and Walla and their guitars, and must have pleased the moron by the bar who had been shouting for it all night.