Q and Not U
Converses shuffled, Pumas tapped. Faces, purposefully laced with affectation, fought hard to keep edges of excitement from creeping up their lips. The scene was an indie rock Pollack: Black ponytails, like splashes, intersected with gray hoodies, spotty navy-blue shrunken polos, and the occasional twinkle of a wallet chain or studded wrist cuff. Standing together, these strokes were queued up and down the sidewalks of an abandoned main street in Niagara Falls, New York. They came seeking homage in a Mecca of theater lights and peeling paint, in the arms of the now ancient Dome Theater. The crowd filed in early, intrigued by opening act Q and Not U, an intelligent, post-punk band from the depths of the D.C. streets (well, the depths of North West D.C. at least). Q and Not U have won fans with their dancey rock and the disco-thump strumming of their worldly strings. This mix accounts for their success in the open-air of college radio. The trio took over on this end of the Interpol North American tour, filling in the footprints of Blonde Redhead. The audience, like me, wasn’t sure what to expect. Long lines kept me from catching the very beginning of the show but as soon as I was in I busted my way to the front of a platform. Q and Not U’s sound was infectious, and my foot, without urging, began to tap. I was afraid the indie audience, used to resigned head nodding, would be exasperated by this shock and awe of discombobulated, synth-draped rock. But the crowd took an extreme liking, bringing out such moves as the pogo and, in addition to the head bob, the headshake. The band was encouraged, if not ignited, by the excitement urging the audience to “just fucking go with it”. The trio had great energy, a combination of the new wave inspiration of The Cure and the egging of Modest Mouse. Whatever the blend, if a band can move this crowd then it’s doing something right. Q and Not U played for almost an hour, running through a selection of songs from the older album No Kill No Beep Beep as well as its newest endeavor, Power. At times a funked-out Rick James or James Brown vibe seeped from the stage, invigorating the audience and bringing a shine to the old theater. The dorky science-disco-clap samba-rock seemed to touch everyone in the audience, even the most jaded. The fiery bop beat is comparable to a host of bands such as Hot Hot Heat and Franz Ferdinand, but Q and Not U sets themselves apart with a harder ache and infuriating punk influence. The band produces layers of sound reminiscent of a host of disgruntled 1980s pop groups. They included a song for everyone, even working in some jam band twang. But it was the varied harmonies, perfect crescendos and sharply executed tempo craziness that most consistently impressed. This band shows where popular music should be going, shifting its focus to percussion and experimental melodies. Following the ridiculously energetic Q and Not U, Interpol honestly had a “hard act to follow”. But for these frenzied fans who had waited a long time for the New York City rock outfit to visit this side of the state, Interpol could have just smoked cigarettes for 2 hours and the audience would still cheer wildly — despite New York laws against indoor smoking, this did actually happen. Interpol emerged in classic fashion: against blinding, smoke-filled lighting, they appeared as shadows in uniform black, white, and red outfits, ties and suspenders, each one different, yet the same. The two-hour show featured a perfect balance of songs from the first album, Turn On the Bright Lights, as well as the newer Antics. Interpol is clearly an obsessive-compulsive indie rock band. Their show was clean, well paced, and all around well executed. They embody the essence of flawlessly moody rock music. Fans went wild for favorites such as “Slow Hands”, “NYC”, “Evil”, “PDA”, and “Obstacle 1”. This fan melted during the greatest performance of “Narc” that she’d ever heard. The band exhibited an excellently gorgeous, ambient stage presence, still and in-control. The distortion and guitars blended beautifully, creating dream-like orchestrations. One could see the real musicianship of the band and hear as the concentration of the musing pop drone produced the most elegant of rock. But filtered through all the perfection, I felt something was amiss. Unlike shows I’d seen in the recent past, this one was lacking energy. The most amusing energy I’d encountered was from the bassist, who played with ridiculous urgency. But otherwise, the show rolled on in a drugged haze. Maybe that’s the way Interpol means it to be, but even a week later, I was still saying, “huh? Yeah, it was okay.” What did I miss? This was a band I listened to incessantly over the past two years. Maybe something was wrong with me. I still haven’t figured it out, but while many fans, including myself, were caught up in the dreaminess and gorgeousness of it all, that was the problem. It was too perfect. It sounded TOO MUCH like the album. At a live performance the fan always wishes for something extra. It’s how good bands become and stay good. Interpol was too orchestrated and packaged and even somewhat too industrial for me. Could it be the fame? The smart, slick marketing of the record industry? I’m not sure. The show was okay, but it was just okay. I would have rather seen a local punk band in a basement bar, exuding reality. I really hope Interpol hasn’t forgotten its dive-bar NYC attitude and smoky, closet-bar beginnings. Q and Not You haven’t, and they’re not even from New York.