The Frequency Five – Detroit – The Shelter, MI – 2002-05-22

The Frequency Five
Where: Detroit – The Shelter, MI.

When: 2002-05-22

…So I suppose that I should start off by saying that I was already extremely disappointed with this show before a single note had even been played. A local music rag had done a piece on Elliott lately that mentioned the fact that the band was going out on a short tour jaunt with Christiansen and Liars Academy. As a big Ryan Shelkett fan, I got pretty excited, because I was only aware of two other bands playing with Elliott – Christiansen and a local act called This Frequency Five. I checked the concert listings in a few other rags, and sure enough, Liars Academy had been added to the billing.

Obviously, I was extremely disappointed when Liars Academy didn’t play. I can totally understand if something had happened that had kept them from coming, but it seemed as if they were never intended to play this particular date at all. No one mentioned them all night – well, no one, that is, except a majority of the crowd, that is.

Still, I was there, and the beer was flowing, so although I was peeved, I was drawn to the conclusion that the show must go on no matter what. Localites This Frequency Five opened up, taking the stage in matching black button up shirts and black pants with skinny white ties. TF5 were actually pretty tight, considering that the band’s recently plugged a new singer into their musical equation, though the set seemed somewhat uninspired at times. The lead singer weaved around the small stage like Scott Weiland in his “Sex Type Thing” days, while the lead rhythm guitarist thrashed about like a squirrel with anthrax (I mean, seriously, this guy was totally into his guitar playing). The best pieces of TF5’s set, however, were the three songs where the band jacked up the intensity level of the rhythms while the lead rhythm guy and the singer got a little more on the screamy side of the dual-vocals concept. Overall, these guys were your average indie rock show-opening band, though the more intense stuff leads me to believe good things could come from TF5 with time.

Christiansen took the stage next, and I must say that based on all of the incredible things I’d heard and read about this band, I was less than impressed with the band’s live set. My instinctual vibe said the band was gonna be cool, based on the grumbling guitar noises that came from the band’s warm-up. Well, that and the fact that the lead singer has hair like Sammy Hagar from the 80’s, and seeing as I’m a HUGE Sammy Hagar fan, that sat well with me. Unfortunately, Christiansen just didn’t do much for me. They were loud enough, and they were wild enough, and most of the crowd seemed pretty into them, but for the most part, I really thought they just came off as a really odd mash of noise rock, emo, and math rock. Now, don’t get me wrong – the band put on a decent enough show, just one that I didn’t really get into. That is, of course, until the last song of Christiansen’s set, where the band unleashed this completely massive (and all too short) guitar grind of a song that left me a little upset that the band’s entire set hadn’t sounded similar. Still, to each their own – the crowd seemed to dig these guys, and that’s all that mattered in the end.

Now, in all honesty, I had no idea whatsoever what to expect from Elliott. Personally, I’m quite the fan of the False Cathedrals record, which apparently no other Elliott fan likes except me. I’d never heard any of the band’s earlier material, and I’d read in a few places that this mini-tour was going to be a sort of sounding board for material the band’s been working on for a new album. What I ended up getting was really cool, though – a sort of amalgamation of early, current, and new material that really gave the show three completely distinct vibes at different times.

Elliott’s newer material was really echo-filled and dreamy, focusing on an almost shoegazer vibe. There was a lot of intricate, interweaving interplay between the band’s two rhythm guitars on this recent material, and the general vibe was really atmospheric and laid-back. The False Cathedrals stuff the band pulled out definitely represented the most well structured and controlled part of the set, although “Calm Americans” still carried quite a bit of weight behind it. The most definite highlight of Elliott’s performance, however, was the way the band burned through a bit of older material. “Dionysus Burning” was downright terrorizing live, with the guitars grinding themselves against Chris Higdon’s sandpapery wails in what certainly stood out as the evening’s finest moment. Hearing Higdon’s vocals go from wavering and dreamy to downright gut-wrenching on back-to-back songs was really something, as it drew attention to the diversity of Elliott’s musical catalogue.

The guitarists were tight through all three styles, and while the Moby-looking Higdon was certainly meant to be the centerpoint of the show, I must admit that Elliott’s rhythm section stole the show easily. The drummer and the bass player seemed to be sharing brainwaves all night, as every transition went seamlessly and every rhythm trobbed with intensity. From spacey to tight-knit to raucous and back again, everything about Elliott’s performance left me with no real recollection of having actually missed anything at all on this night, which was quite the accomplishment based on my attitude at the beginning of the night.