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“One more sin/ ’til the dreams kick in” (Bon Savants going away show at Great Scott)

August 2nd, 2009 No comments

You know what? I’m going to write a review of an indie rock show in my blog-that-is-ostensibly-about-sci-fi.

I went to see the Bon Savants at the Great Scott in Allston, Massachusetts (just a part of Boston with a different name, for those unfamiliar). Their singer, Thom Moran (described in their Wiki entry as a “part time rocket scientist” at MIT) is moving off to Cali, so this was their last show with Moran as a local, although the band promises to continue.

I was moved. And I was kicking myself for not having discovered this band sooner, as they’ve apparently been around since ’97. It’s rather boggling that they’re not signed. The sound is like the Arcade Fire if you got rid of all hints of whining and instead put the front man from the National into the mix. Moran’s vocals are like a Gitane smoldering over a glass of stout, guitarist Kevin Haley provides dead solid backing vocals (and leads, on one of the songs that I heard), and bassist Wessel is forceful. I knew I was going to at least credit the band for effort before they even started playing because of Moran’s methodical & elaborate pedal setup, and because keyboardist Tia Carioli had some kind of weird little toy keyboard on the stand above her Roland controller, plugged into what looked like a fader box.

The Arcade Fire/National comparison is apt, but just when I thought I had the band figured out, they went into the fourth to last song in the set with a riff that sounded like it belonged in a Mountain Goats song, and then Moran started doing a stage moan/croon/plaintive-not-really-scream voice that was somewhere in between Thom Yorke and the dude from Destroyer. Not long after, Carioli began methodically pleasuring a device that looked like a domed Kaoss Pad with a Maglite. (She had some pretty cute shoes going on, too, and I suppose if I’m going to mention that, I should also say that Moran is one of the few men out there who can pull off a mint green shirt and pink tie without looking like an asshole).

From there, they went into a densely layered ballad-y track that was emotional without wanting to make me laugh at the band and wave an imaginary cigarette lighter, and on into a very rock & roll wrap-up. It was fairly epic (especially for the Great Scott).

Despite being around since ’97, the band has only one record, Post Rock Defends the Nation
(2006), although their web site mentions a forthcoming album. And though I kind of hate Rock Band, it’s worth mentioning (for people who don’t) that the Savants are part of a Harmonix beta program to bring their music to the game (more on this in their Rock Band Dev blog).

Finally, props to whoever was working sound for this show. After seeing a succession of shows with crap sound at the Great Scott (although I admit, I mostly go there for the Pill), I’d begun to think the place just always had lousy sound. All in all, a good use of ten bucks.

 

Photo by Melody Hadap. She has more photos from the show here.

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