Paper Street Saints – Detroit – The Shelter, MI – 2004-03-21

Paper Street Saints
Where: Detroit – The Shelter, MI.

When: 2004-03-21

Ahhhh, rock music. Sunday night all-ages shows at The Shelter are odd, because the venue desperately tries to get the shows over with as soon as humanly possible. At this particular show, for example, the opening acts each only got 20-minute sets, which is unusually short even for local acts opening for touring bands.

I was fortunate enough to see this show with a posse, and being the socialites we are, we missed the first band because we were sipping drinks at a bar around the corner. I was fairly impressed with the Paper Street Saints’ set, though I have to admit that the band sounded pretty much what you’d expect a band with members of Sponge/Rev (drummer Charlie Grover) and Bliss 66 (frontman/guitarist Cheyenne Goff) to sound like. Still, predictability or not, the songs were damned catchy guitar-rock affairs (a la Cheap Trick), and the band did manage to earn some bonus points with our group by closing the set with a solid cover of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.”

From there, Lisboa spat out a set of non-stop power pop that focused on tracks from the band’s recently released Either Origami EP. Thankfully, the band’s set was generally unmarred by the technical difficulties that seem to follow it around (although frontman Joe Kirkland did manage to break a guitar string about 10 seconds into the first song, the band covered the glitch nicely until Kirkland got another guitar). The shortened set limit seemed to force Lisboa into double-time, as the band seemed to be playing songs much faster than usual to fit more into the allotted 20 minutes.

Once Elefant hit the stage, the crowd was simply mesmerized. First off, there was the rather undeniable stage presence of frontman Diego Garcia, who pretty much had all of us in the audience eating out of his hand by doing nothing more than looking at us. Garcia’s over six feet tall, sporting a fashion mullet and a piercing gaze worthy of pin-up modeling magazines, and just by deliberately sauntering around the stage, he injected an air of sensuality that seemed to affect everyone in The Shelter.

Yes, oh yes, there was a fifth member of Elefant on this night – his name was Pretentiousness, and the role he played in the band’s set was immeasurable. Elefant wasn’t “punch the band members in the face” pretentious – rather, the band seemed to ooze that “damn, we’re way cool” New York pretentiousness that reminded the posse I was with of all the cool kids that everyone tended to look up to in high school. Guitarist Mod had two gigantic boxes of guitar goodies lined up in front of him, and wound up spending a lot of time stomping on pedals and switches like a kid playing Dance Dance Revolution. Bassist Jeff Berrall didn’t really do anything at all for the night, though it was excusable because of the deep bass throb the guy put out for every song. Now, the drummer – boy, oh boy, the drummer … At some point, I think Kevin McAdams looked around and saw that no one else was doing much, so he figured he’d best make up for it with some serious thrashing on the drum set. Watching McAdams play was like watching Animal from the Muppets playing drums on speed – the guy’s arms and hair were flailing all over, and while the beats he laid down were far more booming and intricate than the band’s recorded material represents, everything sounded crisp and tight.

Elefant definitely had the ‘presentation’ elements nailed, but the ‘performance’ aspect wasn’t lacking, either, as the band was just TIGHT live. Sure, Garcia busted out a lot of mid-80s Bono moves on stage, but the man’s voice was low and commanding (like a deeper Robert Smith, actually), which meshed well with Mod’s rather sparse style of guitar playing. That combo sat nicely atop Berrall and McAdams’ awesome rhythm section, which in itself gave the tracks far more depth than they have on Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid. It seemed that the crowd was (not surprisingly) most into the band’s performance of “Misfits,” though “Now That I Miss Her” came off quite powerfully. The band also tossed in a set of new songs that were at least as good (if not better) than the rest of the set.

All honesty being given, I wasn’t really expecting much coming into this show. One thousand thank yous go out to Elefant for impressing the hell out of me, and for giving all of us in the crowd a near-religious concert experience. Seriously, people really need to catch these guys live as soon as possible, while it’s still conceivable to see them play in such an intimate setting.