26 Sep 2011: 9:30 Club Washington, D.C.
Opening bands and minor league baseball teams have a lot in common: less money, smaller audiences and no guarantee that they’ll ever make it to the “big show”. And though we may never hear from them again, both are always happy to have their time under the bright lights.
Named after a ‘90’s era Nickelodeon lizard, Reptar is a collegiate party-pop powerhouse from Athens, Georgia. The young quartet, who have only been been playing together since 2008, was unexpectedly drafted to the opening spot on a national tour for Foster the People. Considering the sheer volume of potential picks in the genre, their inexperience and the contagious popularity of Foster the People—you can safely assume that Reptar was selected for a damn good reason.
Playfully smiling and gesturing as they rolled on to the 9:30 Club stage, Andrew McFarland (drum), Ryan Engleberger (bass), Graham Ulicny (guitar) and William Kennedy (synthesizer) took to their instruments in an unpolished fervor that lacked the self-important swagger of most relative unknowns. They looked like four southern-fried college kids about to play a half packed fraternity basement party. They were loose and excited—so much so that one of them called out to see if his brother was in the audience. Sitting on stage at one of the best music clubs in the mid-Atlantic, their elation was palpable.
Their short set opened with a bit of ambient interplay that led into a 1980’s synthesizer crescendo. Carefully lumbering through their soundscape, the quartet built momentum until they broke into full swing. To say the band had high energy would be a gross understatement… the four danced throughout their entire set, riding their own energy to the point where it was difficult to believe they were playing as precisely as they were. Driven by McFarland’s powerful drums, they were impressive, dynamic and violent. Their explosive sound fully embodies the persona of their namesake: an animated party Godzilla.
Reptar’s sound feels a bit like a litmus test for how far the neon party-pop genre can be bent. In that regard they are experimental, but more importantly, they are original. Imagine a punk version of Paul Simon forcing Vampire Weekend into penury; then toss in a shattered disco ball and some live at CBGB’s Talking Heads for good measure.
Ultimately, they are the best kind of opening act one could hope for when deciding between a good spot on the floor and another beer at the bar. If you make it in time to see them, you probably won’t forget about them completely. It’s hard to tell if they have what it takes to “make it” but they are young and they are making the most out of their time in the spotlight.