I walked into the largest starting crowd of the Fall Showdown thus far with Tunnels, the first band of the night’s great lineup, on stage. Tunnels is fronted by Steve Ucherek, lead singer of The Living Blue, and in the past I’ve only seen the band as a duo with drummer Ben Ucherek, but tonight there was also a bassist and two drummers. Where The Living Blue are more psychedelic garage rock n’ roll, Tunnels is more of a pop jam outlet. With the singer’s faux British accent, and great mid-tempo pop-rock songs like “Little Sister” and “Trouble,” the band sounds like The Kinks influenced by way of Blur. And the two drummers were great together, sometimes working on the same beat or filling each other out. Tunnels sounded great and I hope their first release comes out sometime soon.
Next up was New Ruins. They left behind all their material from The Sound They Make, playing what I believe to be all new songs, and a new approach. The “Small Town Midwestern Gothic” label still fits, but the band’s influences are refocused. Instead of early Iron & Wine and Ugly Casanova feeling, there’s a My Bloody Valentine lushness and Modest Mouse’s isolation by landscape. One of the new songs could even be the “Float On” of the Corn Belt, with the line “Yeah, we’ve gotta keep movin’ on.” The new material sounded excellent, and their MySpace says they are working on recording, so I’m looking forward to that.
Shipwreck were equally impressive, mixing atmospheric rock that begs me to mention the guitar work of U2 and Pink Floyd, but with a Cursive type aggression mixed in as well. The band has a great rhythm section that really stood out, mixing a rock n’ roll sound with more dance-oriented pulses, playing tracks from their recently released Rabbit In the Kitchen With A New Dress On. “Rabbit in the Kitchen” and “Black Moon” are the songs I could recognize, but each song was something else and immediately draws the attention of indie-rock fans.
Finally, the headliner of the shebang, and most well-known local act around, Headlights took the stage. There’s no denying that the group can write great pop songs that are infectious and heartbreaking as anything Ben Gibbard has done and matches contemporaries like Metric. Lead singers Erin Fein and Tristan Wraight sing in voices like you would want your crush to sing to you in, giving the group’s live show a certain romance. “TV” and “Put Us Back Together Right” are the kind of songs that get groups recognized and are therefore expected live, and the band delivers with smiles on their faces and energy in their limbs. There’s nothing like playing in your hometown, I guess. One of the songs even had a great country swing to it that made the song stand out from the rest, and “Lions,” the most guitar driven track of the night, was saved for last. This was a great show, the best dénouement that the Fall Showdown could have had.
Photo courtesy of Justine Bursoni