Rotary Downs

Le Bon Temps Roule

August 14, 2009

BY JASON SONGE


Going to see a Rotary Downs concert is like catching up with an old friend. Things may change in my life, but there's Rotary Downs, solid.

I love seeing them at Le Bon Temps for two reasons: 1. it's a powder keg of a rock venue, even though that's not what you normally see in there. It's got a basement party, everybody get drunk and crazy vibe. 2. It's three blocks from my apartment, so I can drink a lot.

I was hoping they'd already be going when I got there at 10:50, but they didn't start 'till around 11:30. When they did, the room was full, and some friends showed up to make the night more fun: Patrick, Colby, Marc, Tamara, Mary, and Kathleen.

I got up in the front row and was asked to scoot aside by some dude. Really? At a rock show? I obliged, though, and laughed with Patrick about it before the band started the set with "Lantern," my favorite song off their last album, "Chained to the Chariot."

They came out with that one almost three years ago, and along with the band, I'm a little anxious for the release of the new album they've been working on with The Living Room, The Music Shed, and Mike Napolitano. Their concerts have become more and more new song-centric, and it'd be nice to have a reference point.

When the band was slipping in a few new songs into their set, I didn't care, but then there was a point when they were playing a bunch more new stuff when I hadn't had a chance to get to know the material. I wasn't digging that. But now, I've come back around, cause I've just seen them enough that I know the new stuff pretty well. My friend Mary hadn't seen them since around their last record release, and she said they sounded different. I can imagine.

I like that the band is evolving, taking a chance with more expansive songs, while still sounding like themselves. I'm slow to make too many assumptions about the new material as a whole, but it does seem like they've moved away from the shorter, poppier songs and embraced a more epic, loping, and psychedelic style.

The band was pretty tight last night, and their cramped quarters seemed to encourage that. Bassist Jason Rhein was right on top of drummer Zack Smith. They were eye to eye the whole night, trading smiles and knowing glances. I love watching a band that looks like they're having fun. It makes it that much easier to get with them and have fun, too.

Rotary Downs played a long first set, took a decent break, and came back with a set that I didn't see the end of. I couldn't hang. They musta gone 'till around 3. The best part of the second set was guitarist Chris Columbo's note-for-note solo during The Cars' "Just What I Needed."

P.S. In between song breaks, Colby turns to me and says, "You know they're one of the best bands in the country, right?" And I guess I kinda thought that in the back of my head, but it always sounded crazy because they're from here. It doesn't sound so crazy now that someone else has said it. It sounds right on.


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