Triangle – Rochester – The Bug Jar, NY – 2002-05-25

Where: Rochester – The Bug Jar, NY.

When: 2002-05-25

O, poor drummer. Already, the drummer is the lonely member of a band, relegated to the back of the stage with his instrument between him and the audience, leaving all the recognition to the people standing up at the front. Now, technology has rendered the drummer obsolete. All a band needs is a computer or a small machine with plenty of knobs to play with to get even more unique beats and sounds. This night, all three touring bands were without a drummer, instead relying on pre-programmed beats.

Unfortunately, machines are not always preferable in a live setting. Sometimes you need the human interaction to create an enjoyable live experience. Then there’s the issue of syncing mechanized, pre-programmed beats with live vocals and other instrumentation. It can make for a cold, mechanized sound at times, a sloppy sound at others.

These three bands know what they’re doing, however, and all three dealt well with the few band members and instrumentation they had. Triangle, from St. Paul, Minn., consisted of a male and female, both who sang. He played guitar, alternating between effects and at times ripping off almost surf-like riffs, while she played the bass, and both tweaked the keyboards and drum machine, creating an intriguing amalgamation of electronic beats. Their set was the least precise, with their live instruments not always matching the beats, and the vocals weren’t up to par due to the overworked sound guys who couldn’t get everything sounding quite right, but the band still had a fun kind of electronic rock sound. The band has an album out on File 13 Records, and I expect their studio work improves on their live sound significantly.

The funny thing is, both of the members of Triangle were the backing band for Howard W. Hamilton III (HWH3), who is for all intents and purposes the Busy Signals. Much more poppy and slick sounding, the Busy Signals are most enjoyable when they’re playing sweet-sounding pop. Much of the sounds were pre-programmed here, including snippets of lyrics from HWH3’s co-patriot Har Mar Superstar. HWH3 was the least unlikely looking indie electronic rock frontman you’d expect. A big guy with a beard and an African hat, HWH3 sung the lyrics well, and the female member of Triangle danced quite well to the pleasant pop. Again, the sound wasn’t terrific, and I couldn’t figure out why the Busy Signals had beats pre-programmed to go in between the songs, when HWH3 would just stop them seconds after they began. Still, there’s no doubt the Busy Signals make fun pop songs, and when the sound was working, the Busy Signals were pretty darn good – if not as impressive as on their albums.

I Am the World Trade Center, however, were definitely the highlight of the night. This male and female duo used no traditional instrumentation other than tambourines and vocals, but they mixed in keyboards played with maraca-like mallets, a theramin-like device that made neat pre-programmed feedback sounds as the musicians waved their hands over it, and plenty of beats, samples, and more. The female member did the singing, with a beautiful voice, a kind of sultry look to the crowd, and just enough moves, as the male member looked like he was having the time of his life, playing tambourine, dancing around the stage, and singing through a vocoder. The best part about this band was the interaction between the two members, as they played several songs looking into each other’s eyes, dancing back and forth, and singing their hearts out.

Despite the relatively small crowd, I Am the World Trade Center warmed to the crowd and had the best sound of the night. They were also the most danceable, and after several songs, the crowd warmed to them, dancing with each other before the stage. The guy in the band even leaped into the crowd to breakdance for a few seconds. Dance music is generally derivative and boring, but I would go to clubs or dance parties where this band was playing. So catchy, so fun, they really made this a great night.

The band started by explaining why they left their band name after September 11 and ended by encouraging the band to stick around for a dance party. I doubt the crowd did, but it wasn’t necessary. They sparked a real dance party and were the highlight of a fun night of electronic-enhanced danceable pop. Fun stuff, even for an indie-rock fan like me.