Thursday, July 19, 2007

Maximo Park and the Cribs at the Record Bar

Posted By on Thu, Jul 19, 2007 at 11:08 AM

Maximo Park and the Cribs

July 18, 2007

The Record Bar

Better Than: The Arctic Monkeys accepting your friend request.

Review by Jason Harper. Photos by Scott Spychalski.

How are people going to know about it if it’s a secret show?

That was the crux of the biscuit going into the Record Bar’s free Secret MySpace Show last night, where upwardly mobile British bands the Cribs and Maximo Park were shedyuled to play before an all-ages crowd comprising kids who could have only heard about the show through their MySpace membership. (Well, or by looking at the RB ad in this week's Pitch, or reading about it on this blog, or whatever.)

I arrived at 6 p.m., an hour before show time, hoping to see a ridiculously long line of MySpace chitlins waiting at the door. Instead, they were all on Facebook. Infiltration!

Just kidding. Actually and somewhat unsurprisingly, no one was lined up outside the door. The situation was a bit scary for me because as both a music scene advocate and an Anglophile, I wanted the show to be successful.

In the bar's basement, chipper Maximo Park singer Paul Smith was biding his time in the sweltering-hot green room, fiddling with iTunes on his Mac laptop. He was in a very positive mood, saying that even if only a hundred people showed up to his middle-America club show it was OK as long as they reached just one person. “I used to be that hundredth person,” he said referring to his own youth, when he’d witnessed cool, underground shows in his hometown of Billingham, England. I was wondering how he’d react when only 13 or so people showed up to see his band play Kansas City.

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Back upstairs, I furiously began texting my friends to come fill out the empty bar for this free, promising, British show. "The only thing I hate more than free shows is British music," one of them replied.

At 7 p.m., my fears abated a little when the doors officially opened and a couple dozen kids filed in. A table of Brookside teens -- three boys and a girl -- sat drinking water out of red Solo cups and smoking cigarettes. Recent graduate Andrew said he didn’t know a thing about the bands. A MySpace bulletin had alerted his attention to the show. He researched the bands, liked them, and persuaded his friends to come. The girl in the company, Jenny, 19, said that she had neither MySpace nor Facebook profiles set up. “I’m just a plain-old woman,” she said.

At a quarter past 8, the Cribs hit the stage, and the young folks dutifully got up from their tables and hit the dancefloor. The Wakefield band roared through a sloppy, new-wave-influenced punk rock set rife with wuh-Oh-wuh-Oh-oh choruses.

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The Cribs proved to be an English distillation of the Clash and contemporary American pop-punk – sort of a cross between New Order (but with guitars instead of keyboards) and New Found Glory (but good). “This has been really fun, actually! Cheers,” said the bassist and co-lead singer. By the way, the night before this show, the Cribs had played Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

It was darker and more crowded all around when Maximo Park took the stage. Smith had shed his basement loungewear in favor of a black suit and derby hat. As a high-kicking, jumping, microphone-stand-wielding frontman, Smith fused Malcolm McDowell from A Clockwork Orange and a young Joe Jackson, and his energy never faltered in the nearly hour-and-a-half set.

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During our basement interview, when I'd asked him to describe his band’s music, Smith cited a lot of different influences -- New Order, the Smiths and the poppier songs in Aretha Franklin’s catalogue, to name a few. But his ultimate statement -- “I’ve always felt our music is life-affirming pop” -- held true throughout the set. With vertical jumps to send and NBA point guard back to the gym for the summer, Smith led his band through a bashing, peppy round of tunes about starting, failing to start, maintaining or facing the end of romantic relationships.

“All our songs are about people you care for,” Smith had said, “even ones that are gone.”

Maximo Park provided rippingly good music for struggling singles last night – never mind that most of the people there weren’t even old enough to have had a real, adult relationship. But then again, who is?

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Anglophilia.

Random Detail: During the Cribs' set, a mic stand fell and smashed our photographer's right index ("shooting") finger, breaking it 1 cm down.

By the way: "MAXIMO PARK has 75873 friends." "The Cribs has 46141 friends."

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