Welcome to the first/kinda second installment in a new Ranting About Music! feature “You Should See Them Live.” Simple concept: whenever I see a live show, I’ll do a little write-up. It’s more for fun than anything else, and because hey, why not? First up is an outing from November, when I saw Bad Suns and New Politics.
I have been very hot and very cold over New Politics this year.
I mean that literally. I first saw the Danish (self-described as “Danish as fuck”) band in the sweltering, mid-July heat of Bunbury, and the next time they were in town was one of the coldest days of the year. I was only at one because of the other; toward the end of the band’s ebullient set at Bunbury, frontman David Boyd casually mentioned they’d be back in town not unlike how you’d casually mention a second date on the first one after the other person’s laughed at all your jokes all night. No one would call it a subtle play, but after so many backflips, robot dance moves, and singalongs to songs you’re hearing for the first time, you’re pretty okay with it. At least a friend of mine and I were: we agreed to see them again in November there on the spot.
And thus the pair of us, plus another buddy (and Bunbury attendee) came, rosy cheeked and coated, to be standing toward the back of the crowd in the mid-sized rock club Bogarts in Cincinnati. Good news for those of you who have never been, you can make your very own scale version of Bogarts at home: get a shoebox, put a bottle of Jamison and a tall PBR at one end, an iPod dock at the other, and it’s like you’re there. I’ve heard it also has a balcony.
Anyway, the show itself. Opener SomeKindaWonderful was taking an understandable night off because one of the band members had a new child, so it was up to Bad Suns to start the night. My friends and I had never heard of Bad Suns, and after two songs, we felt like the only ones; the band got a surprisingly generous response from a deceptively adolescent crowd (sidenote: I never thought I’d feel out of place at a rock show as a gawky 20something, but there you go).
Bad Suns is an alt. rock quartet who cut a debut album this year, and they’re a good little band. Their sound is built from the ground up on vaguely groovy 80s post-punk, and they move on stage with the same twitchy energy present in their radio single “Cardiac Arrest”. Frontman Christo Bowman carried himself with an intellectual, subdued charisma in the vein of Elvis Costello and Robert Smith, while the rest of the band maintained a playful chemistry. They swayed and bounced through the rest of their debut Language and Perspective, a hooky post-punk set with enough big choruses and experimentation (including the disco-aping “Salt”) to convince me to buy a copy at the end of the night.
And then came New Politics. At Bunbury, the trio played the main stage, and overcame the larger than they were probably used to venue by playing out as much as possible. David Boyd treated the stage like a playground, and instrumentalist Soren Hansen spent that hot July day virtually running laps while bashing out power chords. It worked, but I suspected New Politics were better suited to a venue they felt they could blow the roof off of. As the band and the crowd leaped into the chorus of second song “Berlin”, my suspicions were confirmed. New Politics’ kinda noisy dance-rock is best when they have something to push against, and the blown-out sound at Bogarts was a great fit.
The biggest change in the band was in confidence. The venue difference certainly helped, but New Politics felt less blustery, more at ease, and like they were having more fun calling the shots in their own show. Boyd and Hansen maybe didn’t run around quite as much, but it felt like they didn’t need to. The set was largely unchanged; the bulk of the material came from 2013’s A Bad Girl in Harlem, but there were a few new additions that made seeing them the second time worth it. New single “Everywhere I Go (Kings and Queens)” from next year’s album came up, as did a few more cuts from the band’s bubble-grunge self-titled debut. A faithful but fun “Sabotage” cover popped up mid-set, and there a dance/jam interlude of “Anaconda”/”Turn Down For What”/”Smells Like Teen Spirit” that led into “Goodbye Copenhagen” to keep the momentum going late in the set (there exists, somewhere in the universe, a SnapChat video of me going Tasmanian Devil during “Goodbye Copenhagen” that I wish I had for posterity).
New Politics’ strongest points came toward the end of the night, where they stacked the fulfilling crowd songs. Punky shout-along “Just Like Me” closed the initial set out on a high point, before the band came back out for “Yeah Yeah Yeah”. After blasting through a pair of rockers, the band closed the night with the overdriven ukulele arms-around-each-other singalong of “Fall Into These Arms”, part of which Boyd sang from within and then on top of the crowd. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who’d call it a transcendental night, but it was one of the most out and out fun shows I’ve ever been to.