Break down: Students split, scene slows

The Parlor Scouts and the Comas
at Tokyo Rose
March 13

Like a plague of locusts descending on a warned but helpless populace, the students have returned from their yearly beer bong-soaked love fest known as Spring Break to cover Charlottesville again with their swarming and noises in the night, and speaking for the local businesses out there (of which I am not one), I'd like to say: We missed you!

Spring Break is but a tumbleweed-soaked taste of the lonely afternoons of June though August, and I suspect local business owners dread this period like a plague of– let's say "lice" this time. Concert frequency also goes way down as Charlottesville's population drops, and Saturday, March 13– the last day before the return of the horde– provided a glimpse of why so few big sonic happenings happen: The Rose crowd was about 3/5 of what it would have been (and usually is) for a larger rock show.

The indie-rock outfit known as the Parlor Scouts was on first, and general comments I heard were something along the line of, "They were okay, but their singer is... hot!" (That exact line may have been from my lady friend). Composed of a bassist, a guitarist, a drummer, a keyboardist, a Theremin player, and the aforementioned young lass, the group generally played somewhat helter-skelter music in l/2 time.

On top of fine instrumental backing, and to a seemingly appreciative crowd of hipsters, singer Autumn Beckett applied her Betty Boop-meets-Marilyn Monroe vocals– squealing and sounding like an eight-year-old. I don't have any respect for this vocal technique, which seems to require little more in the way of skill than the ability to talk in key– if the Parlor Scouts were the first band to feature the vocal technique in question I might feel a little differently, but I believe I've seen three bands at the Rose over the last few years with cutsey-whootsy female front-women, and I've had enough.

The Comas were on next, and they saved the evening for me– great catchy pop songs of the well-constructed variety, and a singer who sounded like a cross between Rivers Cuomo (Weezer) and Frank Black (the Pixies).

Strumming a sometimes distorted acoustic guitar, singer Andy Herod led off many of the group's songs with just his two contributions, before the Comas' guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, and drummer entered the action.

Backup vocals were provided by the female bassist, which allowed for some really quite nice male/female harmonies on a few numbers, and as the group moved from quirky off-kilter pop to bright up-tempo numbers, the screen behind them displayed a black and white film of the type seen in 2002's The Ring (although with not as many maggots).

The true test of whether a show is enjoyable for me is if I end up buying one of the group's records on the way out. And although I was all ready to do so, no merchandise table was in evidence.

The Comas