Steve Eck, Rotary Downs and Harlan

Carrollton Station and The Saturn Bar

March 17, 2007


Steve Eck plays well arranged, dark rock that has tastes of rockabilly, blues, and zydeco. On Saturday night at Carrollton Station the local singer-songwriter was joined by an accordionist, a double bass player, and a drummer. Eck stuck to his black electric guitar.

Though the songs were consistently quality, the best part about the show was Eck's voice. He got real emotive with his vocal chords, almost like he was exorcising demons. As he awkwardly shook, it was obvious the tortured music was cathartic for him.

The swing in the music made the music perfect for dancing the evil out of my body, but the small and lame crowd made it difficult to do. People would rather sit down at the Station than rock out, even when the music says otherwise. I wish Eck would have woke the crowd up and maybe yelled at them. That would be my only criticism of Eck's show: he needs to learn how to engage the crowd and get them involved. His music suffered because he wasn't able to do this.

I encountered a slightly rowdier crowd when I went to see Harlan and Rotary Downs at The Saturn Bar later. Harlan is a rock band from Baton Rouge that fuses classic and indie elements to make some pretty catchy and melodic music. The playing is very precise in that band. Though they might improvise at the end of a song, they choose notes like The Beatles did. Sometimes there are two guitars at work. Most of the time there is one guitar and one synthesizer working, and the rarest was when the two multi-instrumentalists in the quartet performed on the synthesizers at the same time. Harlan was all about their synthesizers. The melodies they created on the synthesizers, which they maybe only played once during a song, were impeccable. I can see why Harlan just got a distribution deal and is on tour later this month. They obviously put some brain power into their songs.

The band seemed a little aloof and bored while they played. I'm not sure if it was the material or them. The songs sound a bit nihilist, anyway. Blah! Please! Were they too cool for school? Hmmmm....

Most people in the decently filled performance room seemed to have not heard the band before, but they gave Harlan a warm welcome and response, all the same.

Harlan rocked their shit and set the bar high, but Rotary Downs had the home field advantage. As soon as they started playing, the crowd congregated at their feet and started getting into the music. These people liked Harlan, but they were true fans of Rotary Downs. Rotary Downs played their best show yet Saturday night. People were dancing and loving the songs. I've never seen the band create such a wave of crowd energy that they could ride. There seemed to be a point in the set when the band could do no wrong. They had the crowd in the palm of their hands, and as long as they didn't mess up, they'd have them until whenever.

Rotary Downs must have almost played their whole last album and EP. I left at 2 and they were still playing. The band tried to call it a night a couple times, but the crowd kept wanting more, so the band obliged. The band looked like they were having the time of their lives.

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