Live Review: Maximo Park with Eternal Summers at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington DC – 20th May 2014

By on Thursday, 22nd May 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

It is the year of 2014. So that means Newcastle’s Maximo Park have been around for 14 years. FOURTEEN years. I can’t stress this enough. In a music industry climate that sees bands petering out and calling it quits after as little as 2 years in their failed quests to ‘make it’ in this business, the band who started out in Newcastle – Paul Smith, Duncan Lloyd, Archis Tiku, Lukas Wooller and Tom English – find themselves, probably feeling somewhat strangely, at the top of the UK indie band longevity stakes.

Even if you’re not a Maximo fan, you have to admire their relative endurance in what has become increasingly a trying profession. Having put out five well-received albums (their debut ‘A Certain Trigger’ was nominated for the 2005 Mercury Prize) and having played to thousands upon thousands of fans across the globe gives them the right to feel proud and perhaps even cocky of their accomplishments. But I think the humility of frontman Smith at the end of the night summed up what these well-mannered Englishmen are all about: he thanked, sincerely, everyone who came to their show at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel in DC Tuesday night for “spending their hard earned money to come see us play”. Maximo Park may have their place assured in rock history but divas they are not. Further, you can read my interview with drummer Tom English here, what a down to earth guy.

The opening act for the night were relative locals to the area, Eternal Summers from Roanoke, Virginia, who were the support act for the Geordies’ current American campaign. Research has revealed this band also deserve kudos for their staying power too; their third LP ‘The Drop Beneath’ was released in March on Kanine Records, the Williamsburg, Brooklyn indie label famous for also putting out releases by Grizzly Bear and Surfer Blood. They describe themselves as “a power trio”, which is a description hard to argue you with if you see their live show. ‘Gouge’, a fast-paced driven number off their latest album, shows off singer/guitarist and former Washingtonian Nicole Yun’s angelic vocals. I hesitate to call their music twee, but I can’t help but draw comparisons to the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, who oddly were scheduled to headline at the same venue the next night. I didn’t know much about them going into the show but I was impressed by all three band members’ playing: Yun’s shredding on her guitar, bassist Jonathan Woods’ grooves and drummer Daniel Cundiff’s preferred crossover-handed, rapid-fire style playing.

I’ve had three prior opportunities to see Maximo Park in the last 6 years, but I wasn’t going to let opportunity #4 pass me by. Now that they have five albums’ worth of material to draw from, they have quite a lot of material to pick through when choosing those to highlight in their set list, as drummer Tom English discussed with me when I interviewed him post-gig. (That interview is coming soon here on TGTF.) While this tour is in support of latest album ‘Too Much Information’ released in February, naturally there were certain numbers that they couldn’t go without playing unless they wanted a riot. The set began with the opener of ‘Too Much Information’, ‘Give, Get, Take’, and from that point on, I became mesmerised by frontman Paul Smith’s performance. I think it was inevitable.

I’d been ‘warned’ by many friends over the years that resistance to Smith’s charms was futile, that his charisma would pull me in like hypnosis. (Just writing this now reminds me of a conversation I had with Martin when I was in England earlier this month, about how confident, charismatic frontmen can make or a break a band. Clearly, years ago Maximo Park made the absolutely right decision in hiring Smith.) And yes, as a friend had pointed out, he’s practically a human Gumby, his body contorting to whatever the group’s music is suggesting or going entirely airborne. Alex Kapranos, try as you might, but you’re still rooted to the ground by your guitar. The dancefloor ready ‘Brain Cells’ is a great example of this: the more angular, bouncy, dancey rhythm caused him to do the Robot better than Peter Crouch. In between the songs, he played the self-deprecating and, at times, comical, always fedora-wearing emcee for the night. One particularly hilarious moment was when he headed for my side of the stage in a middle of a song and paused for a moment to give a look of consternation at a disinterested boyfriend who was reading his phone during the show. Smith also has this face that just exudes pure glee. That’s the kind of frontman I like: someone who actually looks like he’s having a good time along with the rest of us. Being humble helps too!

I’m sure the Maximo fans are wondering, “what did they play?” A whole lot. So many songs that the set list spilled onto a second page. Nearly every single song on the new album was played, but plenty of old favourites got an airing as well. Older crowd favourites ‘Our Velocity’ and encore closer ‘Going Missing’ unsurprisingly caused raucous scenes, but relatively newer ones such as ‘The National Health’ and ‘Hips and Lips’ provided additional kicks in the arse and felt right at home alongside them. For sure, ‘Leave This Island’ and ‘Midnight on the Hill’ from the new album were also definite highlights of the night, showing the band’s command at writing wistful yet totally engaging and memorable rock songs. There’s a reason why people still know all the words to the songs on ‘A Certain Trigger’. They’re excellent songwriters. While they may be quite a bit older than many of their indie counterparts, Maximo Park is showing everyone how it’s done.

After the cut: Maximo Park’s set list.

Maximo Park Set List:
Give, Get, Take
Our Velocity
Signal and Sign
The National Health
My Bloody Mind
Brain Cells
Hips and Lips
A Fortnight’s Time
The Kids Are Sick Again
Graffiti
Lydia, the Ink Will Never Dry
Leave This Island
Books from Boxes
I Recognise the Light
Drinking Martinis
Limassol
The Undercurrents
Girls Who Play Guitars
His Name Was Audre
Apply Some Pressure
Midnight on the Hill
//
Where We’re Going
Going Missing

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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