July 29, 2005
Since local rock band Rotary Downs has taken longer and longer to create and tinker with their upcoming album, their monthly gigs at d.b.a. have become more and more voyeuristic. New songs pop up every performance, and it's pleasing to watch fans gradually, show after show, latch onto the quality of the fresh material.
If they were more of a rock band in the classic sense(concerns being showmanship, crowd participation, and volume), it'd be easy to call Rotary Downs the best in New Orleans. They're a unique animal, though. Stranger things abound in rock, but what other local band mixes prog tendencies with sensual numbers and stories about carnival mummies? They've cornered the market on that one. And plastic horse figurines that stand watch over performances.
Speaking of prog, a parallel can be made between the career arcs of Stephen Malkmus and Rotary Downs. Malkmus has moved away from broken, sloppy ditties with Pavement and progressed forward with epic songs that snicker in the face of structure and utilize un-ROCK!-like meters. Same goes with Rotary Downs. They're just as literate as they used to be, but they've left behind the downtrodden, shoegazer mumbles. Now, they're onto spaghetti westerns and song sections that only appear twice for five seconds each.
Rotary Downs was the first rock band to break-in d.b.a.'s new stage Friday night. They looked much more comfortable on the spacious plane, and they sounded better than ever with ALL the sound coming from behind them, not just some. There's still something to be fixed, though. As it is, people standing in front of the stage block the view of those in theater seats. As more and more rock bands are booked at d.b.a., which I think will happen, a result will be more standing audience members than at a Rob Wagner show, per se.
Rotary Downs played two sets. They were solid. There was no hesitation. They played the new songs like they've been performing them for a long while. The music continues to become more complex, exploratory, and bouncy. Lead singer/guitarist James Marler has said that the new album sounds so diverse it will be hard to sequence. Maybe some interludes? Marler sang from the keyboard for the first time, while bassist Jason Rhein continued to be a secret weapon with his back-up vocals.
A buncha people showed up for the band, but it seemed more like a happening than a concert at first. People talked and declined from approaching the stage. As the night moved on and more and more people took to the drink, the fans let themselves be known.
Catch Rotary Downs at d.b.a this month.