Beings and Plains
Friday, October 29, 2010
Better than: Waiting until the Beings 7'' is out of print and you've gotta pay Ebay prices.
Beings is a band that transcends a niche audience, garnering regular praise from disparate South Florida demographics. The punks love Beings, the Fonzies love Beings, and whatever shortsighted label for people who listen to indie rock (it's 2010, can we finally retire "hipster?"), well, they love them too.
In the past year, this rising three-piece has performed at DIY shows along the Biscayne corridor, on the patio at the Miami Art Museum, and as the opening act for Torche on its recent US tour. Though the Vagabond is not particularly known for rock shows, it is the centerpiece of Downtown Miami nightlife, and as such, provided welcome pomp and a sense of eventfulness to the release party for the new Beings 7'' single on Discosoma Records.
That "pro" sensibility (perfectly mixed sound, an appropriately raised stage with copious lines of sight) was in full-force as opening act Plains took the stage. Honor Roll's Michael McGinnis is the group's chief composer, and hired guns include ANR's John Hancock on drums and Discosoma CEO Jared McKay. As exhibited on its own recent 7'' single (on, yes, you guessed it, Discosoma), Plains play driving pop-rock.
Unfortunately, the band's performance left me at a loss for elaboration. Don't get me wrong: Plains are obviously more-than-competent musicians, and the crowd lapped up its danceable, rollicking hooks. Personally, I was a big fan of the occasional McGinnis/Hancock vocal harmonies. But aside from recognizing the group as talented dudes and confident performers, I just couldn't quite figure out where to sink my teeth in.
The Plains sound has a distant resonance with '90s "college rock" (as they called it in the Bush/Clinton years), but the grunge girth is rounded off, and unkempt slacker fuzz is subbed out for an extra dollop of pop gloss. I struggled to figure out if this was even "indie rock," but was hesitant to call it "alt rock" because that felt mean-spirited, and I don't dislike Plains as much as I feel like they're just not my thing. A nearby onlooker said the band reminded her of The Hold Steady, and another described the group as "modern rock." Regardless of what this reviewer thinks, Plains performed with grace and gusto to an appreciative audience.
After a delightfully brief setup period (featuring some great minimal synth jams from whichever Vagabond house DJ was on deck), Beings launched into a powerful, booming, deliciously tight set that represented the rich texture of its distinct stylings. The band's aforementioned crossover appeal is certainly the direct product of an expertly constructed pastiche of various rock traditions. The band is heavy, but unlike big bros Torche, Beings' weight is drawn from swirling pop shoegaze rather than stoner metal.
Though packing oomph, Beings didn't rest on its heavy laurels, but instead produced a manic set phasing in and out of references to multiple schools of punk (powerful pop à la Stiff Little Fingers, breakneck speed à la Husker Du) while dishing out accessible -- though elaborately composed -- riffs and hooks, and dense, feedback-laden crescendos. I'd posit that it's nearly impossible to find another band that can so expertly pair lumbering riffage with spritely pace and vigor.
Beings looked and sounded great, but the flip-side of the Vagabond coin quickly became apparent: Though loaded with the essential ingredients for a professional production, the club is still ultimately a dancehall, and as the crew picked up more and more steam, more and more of the audience seemed to travel to the back patio. After a solid set featuring tracks from its new single, as well as songs from the forthcoming LP on Amnesian records, the group closed the night with the joyously and goofily stop-start punk rager "Scumbag Party."
Personal Bias: We're in in the midst of a particularly harsh astrological climate. So maybe if a few less planets were in retrograde, I would have connected a little more with Plains.
The Crowd: Friday-night vagabonds and some Beings/Plains/Discosoma converts.
Overheard in the crowd: A Beings fan gawking at the dancefloor between bands, said: "I feel like Jane Goodall."
Random Detail: The Vagabond BBQ is dank.
"Space Age Love Song"