Live Review: The Temper Trap with the Neighbourhood at the Fillmore Silver Spring, Maryland – 13th October 2012
There are only a precious few bands I will travel outside of DC for. Saturday night I got to see a band that I’ve managed to see in two different countries besides my own (the UK and Denmark) and were undoubtedly the stars of our stage at Liverpool Sound City this year, the Temper Trap. And this time, I didn’t even need to cross state lines. (This is when my wallet and bank account silently thank me.)
The original Fillmore venue in San Francisco is most famous to have played host to such legendary acts as Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead back in the psychedelic Sixties, but more recently, Live Nation has opened a series of similar venues in cities across the country, including Detroit, Charlotte and where I ended up this weekend, Silver Spring. It’s a suburb of DC that has in recent times undergone revitalisation with shops and restaurants crowding in, and an American Film Institute-branded cinema and this outpost of the Fillmore are part of that revitalisation. When you enter the place, it’s more reminiscent of the House of Blues Boston (also owned and operated by Live Nation) where I saw the Temper Trap play in 2010 than any of the other club venues in DC proper. Pretty chandeliers and what appears to be an attempt at a reinforced wood floor for dancing make this look a whole lot better than your standard concrete warehouse venue. It’s like the 9:30 Club’s more refined, suburban cousin. I certainly deemed it safe enough to invite the high school age daughter of a cousin to the show, figuring there’d be no stage diving. (For the record, there wasn’t any. To be honest, while the crowd was definitely into it, maybe they were a little too polite here in the suburbs? I kind of miss the crazy jumping that always seemed to happen at the end of all Temper Trap shows in 2010. But I digress…)
The opening band was the Neighbourhood, who also opened when Cheryl caught Maximo Park at U Street Music Hall last month. The bloke stood next to me thought they were awful, but as I was telling him in between the sets, I think this band’s success – at least at the indie level – is already assured, thanks to being one of the buzzed-about bands of the moment. Their Los Angeles neighbours (no pun intended) KCRW are already fans. While I can appreciate the sort of r&b vocal styling that will recall days of NKOTB (the singer was dressed the way Marky Mark did before he turned back into Mark Wahlberg) and a more thuggish 5ive, it’s not really for me. Think rap, but with a melody, just not a terribly poppy one. The vocals did remind me vaguely of Various Cruelties‘ Liam O’Donnell, but no comparison on the instrumentation there.
I actually really liked the guitars and drumming. I just didn’t feel the repetition of the words “fuck you anyway” in a song is really necessary, and considering who I’d brought along for the night, I groaned inwardly and felt like a terrible aunt. They ended with ‘Sweater Weather’ (official video below), which sounds like a strange title for a band in California who rarely need to wear jumpers, but turned out to be a decently catchy song that a good proportion of early gig goers knew. (Remember what I said, about them being a buzz band?) I’m wondering though, what’s with the British English spelling of your band name, guys? You made me think you were a UK band there. For a moment. Confusing. While I give them credit for not succumbing to the Best Coast / post-Beach Boys surf pop genre, maybe the comparisons to Lana Del Rey and Frank Ocean made here explain why this style of music doesn’t ring my bell.
The first time I saw the Temper Trap was at the 9:30 Club in April 2010. Crammed into the front for co-headliner Florence and the Machine to make sure I would be up front for the whole show, I breathed a sigh of relief when the Flo fans made a mass exodus once their goddess left the stage. In my head, I was insistent: while she might become famous, I was convinced the Temper Trap would be massive, with rock being where it’s at, not a bare-legged woman screaming. Watching the Aussies then to watching them to where they have gotten to now, seeing both their confidence and enjoyment in playing rise, has been an absolute pleasure. They started with ‘London’s Burning’, the edgy ode to the London riots of last year.
Instead of immediately launching into a well-known single, the band chose to offer up something they had never had before: the first live performance of ‘Never Again’. Considering they had played New York City the night before, I couldn’t help but feel a bit smug that we, not the New Yorker who get every single freaking band in existence coming through their town, had been granted something very special. From then on, it was back into familiar territory. I have sung and played along on my bass to ‘Love Lost’ so many times that I’ve committed to memory the melody and bass line, but it is the ending that always gets me: “our love was lost / but now it’s found…”, soaring above our heads and into the stratosphere. This night, I was shooting in the pit when they played it, but it still touched my heart the same way it did 2 years ago.
Punters’ arms were aloft and swaying back and forth during torch song ‘Trembling Hands’ (video clip above); ‘Science of Fear’ turned the energy way back up closer to the end of the show. ‘Soldier On’, though well known by Temper Trap fans, seemed to be an odd, somewhat sleepy choice to open the encore in my eyes, but this was quickly rectified with everlasting love song ‘I’m Gonna Wait’. And there should be no question what ended the night. Dougy Mandagi asked everyone to sing along to ‘Sweet Disposition’, and sing along the audience did. I don’t see the band ever changing the last song they play at a show, because this is *the* song to end a night with.
Fan favourite ‘Fader’, which was conspicuously absent at the DC show in March and from their set at Liverpool Sound City, reappeared on this night and to much applause. Here’s to hoping it stays on future set lists, because it gives the audience the perfect opportunity to pogo. I know I was doing exactly this, as I was so excited to hear it back in the set again. I was also pleased to see that Mandagi is filling the top of his drum for ‘Drum Song’ with water again, which of course leads to many a Kodak moment as the man pounds his sticks on the surface and water sprays in every direction, a physical reminder of the chaos in the song. Awesome.
Strangely absent Saturday night was recent single ‘Need Your Love': surely you’d want to play another one of your singles released this year? Or maybe it was deemed too meek, too much of a power ballad? It should be interesting to see if it makes a reappearance later, and if shouty singalong ‘Down River’ comes back as well. And really, to be fair, the show could have been longer. I would have been happy if they went through the entirety of both albums and their debut EP. But part of being a band that’s in demand is to leave them wanting more, which is exactly what the Temper Trap did.
After the cut: the Temper Trap’s set list.
The Temper Trap Set List
London’s Burning (aka ‘Repeater’ on all their set lists, which makes me think that was the original working title of the song)
Never Again (first ever live play of this song)
This Isn’t’ Happiness
Science of Fear
I’m Gonna Wait