June 30, 2005
BY SARAH FONTENELLE
For those who missed one of New Orleans' hottest Indie Rock bands at d.b.a. Thursday night, listening to and watching Rotary Downs was for my inner rhythmic goddess what biting into a Danny & Clyde’s fully dressed po-boy washed down with cold Abita Amber might feel like to most New Orleanians--an intimate moment of delicious nostalgia so memorable and consistently unexpected I must indulge minimally or end up eating my collection of Rotary Downs albums.
The band’s evocative personality was evident before the show even began. A small toy horse sat stoically on a barstool front and center--funny because the band’s name conjures images of some obscure Midwestern racetrack. In similar random fashion, a rainbow-colored strobe light reminiscent of my 5th grade birthday party at Skate Country graced the stage. Nice touch. The band slid smoothly into the set with a hypnotic instrumental indicative of the Brian Eno ambient-persuasion. Then, the relaxed crowd was pleasantly jolted into danceable fashion with song #2. For the 2-hour, 23-song set, the rockers solidly operated a musical ride traversing old and new material. Funky and eclectic melodies moved alongside pensive, moody numbers that brought to mind possible influences of the Shins, Velvet Underground, and Wilco (just to name a few). The set showcased the band’s wide-range talent and hypnotic ability.
The vocal styling of James Marler(similar to, but more potent than, J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr.), was casually clever, like the lyrics, and aptly described by a friend as "tinted with a sexy confidence." Matt Aguiluz provided competent versatility by incorporating sound interspersions with the keyboard and trumpet, while talented pedal steel guitarist Chris Colombo steadily wooed the audience with infectious melodies turned inevitable multiple-day mind-replays. Bassist Jason Rhein and drummer Zack Smith held the music together with laid-back bass lines and drum beats, and the two pulled the crowd in with their energizing stage presence. Rotary Downs displayed musical flexibility by their ability to stick together, playing note for note, occasionally breaking into different directions while still staying with each other.
The crowd was easily moved by Rotary Downs, as evidenced by the head-noddin’, toe-tappin’, and floor-shakin’ going on throughout the evening. Audience members looked around in affirmation at the ability of the band to sound tighter with each new song. At moments, d.b.a., a fine establishment on trendy Frenchmen, seemed too small for rockin’ Rotary Downs. However, a comfortable intimacy was established when Marler gave a friendly shout-out to White Colla Crimes and Rhein comically asked the audience if anyone had a spare 9 volt battery when his player malfunctioned.
Rotary Downs is a band with appealing sounds, immense staying power, and growth so fast it should be painful. If you’re itching to see them(and you should be), an internet documentary dubbed “100 concerts in 100 days” that covered the d.b.a. show should air in about a week on www.smash.yahoo.com. Check it out and tell all your friends. Positive reinforcement from us will ensure this band never stops playing.