Live Review: Temples with Spires at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 28th October 2014

By on Friday, 31st October 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

Ever since I started blogging, I’ve been whinging about terribly mismatched headliners and their support acts. (Pretty sure the worst pairing I’ve ever seen was LA punk band Abe Vigoda opening for Vampire Weekend at Constitution Hall in April 2010.) Earlier this week, I probably witnessed the best pairing of my life so far: Kettering’s Temples, who have made their name in the 21st century by successfully resurrecting late ’60s psychedelia, were preceded by Brooklyn band Spires, who might not look as wigged out as Temples but they’ve got the same vibe. Both made their 9:30 Club debut in Washington Tuesday evening.

Yet to be signed Spires were originally started by singer/guitarist Matt Stevenson, whose intention was to make it a home recording project. Eventually, I guess touring became a viable and potentially profitable option once band members Jack Manley (guitar), Michael Goodman (guitar/synth), Jack Collins (bass) and Carter McNeil (drums) were added. Last year, NME dubbed them “the US’ answer to Temples”, which makes one wonder if Temples were sat around a laptop one day to come up with potential bands to take around America as support, Googled what bands were being compared to them and came across that NME blog entry. No matter how this all came out, it’ll go down as one of the better matched band bills in recent memory. Having already made a splash in the UK with their single ‘Candy Flip’ appearing on the Too Pure Singles Club in early 2014, you could never blame them for enjoying this stroke of luck of getting this tour.

While the psych rock feeling definitely runs through the bulk of Spires’ songs, I couldn’t help but notice the haircut and swagger of Stevenson, recalling less so Mick Jagger in the Swinging Sixties and more of those ’90s charismatic Britpop frontmen Liam Gallagher and Richard Ashcroft, both of whom as of late have seen better days. As evidenced by songs like ‘Comic Book’, there seems to be a poppier undertone to their music too compared to Temples, which seems to beg for listening in almost complete darkness, with the only light coming from one spare lava lamp.

Spires also seems to have a lot of material, which is pretty good for an unknown band, and their headlining buddies were nice to let them play a pretty long opening set. Their most recently released song, just public for a mere 2 weeks, is ‘Sleepy Eyes’, which like its name suggests is a dreamy, hazy soundscape. For even more street cred, the track was engineered, mixed and produced by Connor Hanwick, who you may recall as the former drummer of The Drums.

The dressing rooms at the 9:30 Club have adjoining balconies so that bands can watch the others on their bill from a bird’s eye view. This particular night, I was wondering why Temples’ balcony seemed to full of equipment. Shortly before they went on stage, all was revealed: in addition to two blokes on the Temples’ balcony, another two had been dispatched to the other side of the club on the punters’ balcony upstairs, and all four were in charge of the pulsating, constantly changing coloured backdrop onstage that can only be described as appropriately trippy for this band. One can only assume they thought the foursome would somehow feel dwarfed by the massive stage of the 9:30 without the kind of lighting rigs only bands like Cut Copy and Kaiser Chiefs can afford, feeling desperate that they had to come up with some kind of visual gimmick of their own. While the manpower deserve an A for effort, the effect was entirely unnecessary and to be honest, mostly distracting.

So what does one do at a Temples concert? It isn’t the kind of music to mosh to, though a pair of kids near us insisted on throwing their bodies and their backpacks around, much to the chagrin of the predominately older, non-teenage crowd who preferred to be respectful, their heads bobbing side to side with the shared knowledge that they were witnessing a pretty special band play. Frontman James Bagshaw – you can’t miss him with that glam rock-y, Marc Bolan-esque, massive perm of hair almost totally obscuring his face – seemed truly touched by the reception. He smiled while commenting, “I see someone in the front who knows the words better than I do. Which is good!” There must be no greater validation for a band than to come to the world famous 9:30 and to see your fans clearly enjoying your performance. While the club wasn’t anywhere near sold out and heaving as I’ve seen for other bands, it didn’t matter: you could tell from the mood and general excitement that everyone who was there were there because they truly adored Temples, which is not something you can for most shows at this venue, often attracting hipsters who disrespectfully chat their way through sets, swilling beer.

Debut album title track ‘Sun Structures’ is fantastic in its tempo, chugging along and being less psychedelic oozy, which I can appreciate. ‘Shelter Song’, their most recognisable tune, was saved for the end of the main set and got the best reception of the night, and with good reason: it’s fun, it’s happy and you can tap your toes to it. However, the highest technical marks must go to ‘Mesmerise’, which on record is less than 4 minutes long, but Temples somehow manage to stretch over 10 minutes (I think?) with instrumental flourishes and expanses. As the song went on and on, I had to wonder when it would end, but after getting my ears screamed in a couple of times (yes, those kids again), I think it’s safe to say most punters didn’t want to see the show end. Is psychedelic rock back? Why, yes. It is.

After the cut: Temples’ set list.

Temples’ Set List:
Sun Structures
A Question Isn’t Answered
The Golden Throne
Prisms
Colours to Life
Ankh
Move with the Season
Keep in the Dark
Sand Dance
Shelter Song
//
The Guesser
Mesmerise

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