Wall of sound: How to sit up and listen

at Tokyo Rose
March 27

 With little time to say aloha (meaning hello rather than goodbye) to anyone at the bar, 12:47am Sunday morning found me tromping briskly down to the Tokyo Rose basement for another show of bands with those sometimes clever (sometimes not) names that reveal at least the general genre of music (indie), before they even play a note– (examples: "The Jane Goodal Experience," or "Sleeping With Ms. Daisy").

I was, of course, too late to see the first two bands perform (shows start a little after 10), being held up by my weekly Saturday night chauffeuring duties-­ this time with an 11-ton blue-toned lady known as "Unit 83" (that's UTS bus 8338 for you non-drivers). But I was just in time for the group Metropolitan.

Hailing from DC, the Metropolitan I saw was a four-piece (though their press describes them as a "solid trio"), which plays a sort of early '90s shoe-gazer rock (heeding bands like Ride or My Bloody Valentine) combined with various ominous background loops.

Two guitarists, playing what would be described as a choice selection of axes by an aficionado (a Rickenbacker and two Gibson Classics), a five-string bass player who seemed to have come out of a similarly timed metal act, and a drummer this was the Metropolitan lineup, and all functioned within established parameters– unlike the group's movie projector.

A few seconds of art film were shown before the unit shut off, and apart from a period of color bars and a red "Toshiba" projected behind the group (which I'm guessing I would have enjoyed a lot more than whatever was intended), the set was, to my relief, picture-free.

There's something to be said for pyrotechnics, smoke-machines, and a troupe of dancing girls in hot pants, but modern bands just showing a film behind them as they play? Merde.

Metropolitan was, in spite of their preference for moving pictures, worth the $3 I paid to get in, though I wouldn't say they are particularly my cup of tea (or can of Pabst). Drenching their instruments in echo, the group had a wall of sound quality that would make Phil Specter proud, though the tunes beneath the maelstrom were decidedly less pop than "Be My Baby."

"I think I'm dying" began the group's lead singer, followed by mumbles before he took his voice up a slight notch for the song's chorus. More meandering towards conclusions than laid out in a simple verse/chorus structure, there was something hauntingly beautiful about the reverb-heavy sound, and the group's quicker numbers– like the disco-beat song that came early in the set– made the crowd slouch a little less and take notice.

For me, the end of the evening (or at least my conscious awareness of it) was the group's third to last tune, a 3/4 time '50s ballad in the style of "Earth Angel."Lullaby-like in its execution, the song was a trumpet call from the sandman, and soon enough I would be heeding his call.