Two years later, the Stripes finally found their way back to the area, now courting a different crowd. If there'd been a cardboard cutout of an Arizona Trading Company employee outside Memorial Hall on Saturday night standing next to a Worlds of Fun-like sign reading "You must have at least this much scenester style to enter," 90 percent of the near-capacity crowd would have been left outside.
The cool kids stayed away, but not because the Stripes can't put on a decent show. The duo even turned in a charming cover of Chicago's "Mr. Cellophane." (That's not to be confused with Mr. Cellphone, who held his mobile above his head to make sure his faraway pal caught every note of this rendition. Catherine Zeta-Jones would be so proud.)
And it's not because the first of Season to Risk's farewell shows at the Hurricane presented an irreconcilable conflict. Even with some excessive guitar-god wankery toward the end, the Stripes' show ended at 10 p.m. sharp, encore excepted.
No, the absence of interest can best be explained by two random moments. One occurred at a Barnes & Noble the afternoon before the show. Two gray-haired gentlemen eagerly discussed the Stripes, and one pulled out recently purchased copies of the band's earliest efforts. "Gotta bone up before the show," he explained. Now, it's bad enough for esoteric-tastemakers to see their parents digging their bands; it's even worse to see said parents doing remedial research into the groups' discographies, diluting the power of the indie purist's "I like the early stuff, before they got popular" claim.
The second telling moment happened at Memorial Hall, before the Stripes took the stage. Infantile amusement Quintron and Miss Pussycat had just finished a puppet show, and Betty Boop cartoons were showing on the venue's big screen. "Puppets and now cartoons," remarked an older chap before uttering this kiss of death: "My grandkids would've loved this show."
The Hurricane's bill offered less senior-citizen-sensitive sounds. Ad Astra Per Aspera, one of S2R's handpicked openers, established itself as the area's most sonically adventurous new act. Mixing minimalist keyboard passages with cathartic, art-thrash outbursts, the Lawrence-based quintet has found a way to make challenging compositions thrilling.
Shots Fired, the trio that followed, suffered by comparison with the night's other performers. Lacking Ad Astra's riveting innovation and S2R's still-original robotic rhythms, Shots Fired played crisp, tight tunes that wouldn't have sounded out of place on the Warped Tour. The contrast between the group's heavier moments and its singer's high-pitched voice produced sparks, but the band's melodic segments landed on the less-interesting side of upbeat emo.
Plenty of time has passed since Season to Risk emerged with its influential debut discs -- more than thirteen years, in fact. On the occasion of its imminent demise, the band revisited this period, with Paul Malinowski (later of Shiner) returning to his post as bassist and David Smyth arriving from Boston to man the drum kit. This reunited rhythm section still pulsed with the industrial efficiency of an assembly line, and the group's choruses sounded like an automated worker blowing a circuit and terrorizing factory hands.
Fellow rockers made their usual show of support, with members of Life and Times, Overstep and Moaning Lisa dotting the crowd, and lots of just-plain fans celebrated their years of devotion to S2R by singing along and, in one case, flashing the stage. "That's the first time that's ever happened," singer Steve Tulipana said to his bandmates. "Are you sure you want to break up now?"
Alas, the decision to take an extended hiatus is final. However, at least the group got a fitting farewell, complete with bared boobs and an outstanding opener. It was such a great concert, in fact, that it deserves a spot in the local wing of the hipstory museum.