Disclaimer: I wrote this intro rant at 2 a.m. after Tuesday’s concert with The Teenagers and Team Robespierre. In retrospect, it’s mildly unwarranted and way too long. If you’d like to skip all that and get to the actual concert review, click here.
Blah blah blah indie rock listeners are so lame, they don’t dance at shows and they’re never engaged and all they do is throw frosty glances at the bands they paid to see. It’s an overplayed, pointless charge I suspect was cooked up and passed down between those random one or two genre-deaf sweaty guys in too-skinny jeans at every concert, those gyrating kids who work to take the focus off the band on stage and onto themselves all under the AIM-profile guise of “dancing like no one is watching” when plenty of people are most certainly watching. Those uninhibited, secure fuckers.
Ok, it’s not total bullshit: Repression, self-consciousness and laziness form a sedative cocktail for most concert-goers — myself included — that raises the bar for the kind of performance that’ll bring participation beyond the patented toe-tap and head-bob. But that’s what it is. Telling people who take pride in not looking/acting like idiots to start acting/looking like idiots isn’t going to work, especially when those people have been shown exactly what kind of idiot they’d look like by aforementioned “uninhibited
Anyways, this isn’t to say there aren’t tons and tons of situations where our jaded generation feels alright about shaking their thin, little forms while actually taking in the music. There’s a simple criteria: Participation must be genuine. That’s it. I guess some people genuinely feel the urge to careen about a confined space whenever they hear a drum beat, but for me, at least, there’s got to be some sort of spontaneous kinetic energy flowing about, bonding performer with audience with music with whatever. I hope I’m not making this sound too mysterious, because it’s not. Usually, you can tell when a band wants you to react a certain way. This does not necessarily include a band telling you what to do: By the time the singer is whining “WHY AINT YOU GUYS DANCIN’?!”, the battle’s already lost.
And, obviously, concerts at which this alchemy has taken place tend to be a little more fun, they tend to roll around in your brain for a longer time afterwards than the ones at which you stood cross-armed and nodded. So I’m glad the yelping Brooklynites in Team Robespierre and the French sleaze bags in The Teenagers both brought a few ingredients to the Abbey Pub last night designed to inspire some real feedback from the audience. I won’t lie and say I busted out my 7th-grade cotillions skills at the show, but I found myself unconsciously moving about more than at, say, that enervating Say Hi concert I once found myself at, and the rest of the crowd certainly got into it in a manner that seemed organic.
Team Robespierre’s secret to mayhem isn’t a secret at all. Within moments of starting their first number, off from the stage jumped the band’s lead singer, where he pranced around wailing as the microphone chord got tangled in amp wires (by the way, the term “lead singer” is used very loosely here: With Team Robespierre, the vocals are less singing and more non-metal shouting, and the “lead” part might be completely wrong, as all the members except for the drummer spent a considerable amount of time with their mouths on a mic). A quarter way into the set, three-fifths of the band was down with the audience. The keyboardist even took part, using the edge of the stage as his keyboard stand. I imagine this is a technique they use to recreate their natural habitat — the illegal living-room venues in Brooklyn where the line between performer and audience is so porous and invisible it might as well not exist, where Team Robespierre is mildly renowned for turning run-down lofts and arty kitchens all sweaty and awesome.
The Teenagers engaged using more classical methods: They played catchy music, and they played it well, and managed to inject a nice dose of personality into the preceding. I kind of expected their set to be a confrontational gross-out, since the band’s biggest claim to fame is fucking-obsessed (note the hyphen) songs featuring the basest diction possible. But these non-teen Teenagers are really just a shimmering synth-pop band with most of the vulgarities confined to spoken-word verses that were incomprehensible at the concert anyways. That’s not to say they were boring or the songs were muddy: The band sounded outright muscular, channeling the suddenly re-popular John Hughes aesthetic into fist-pumping pop anthems. Frontman Quentin Delafon looks like exactly the kind of guy you’d expect him to be: a tall, skinny, scruffy-chinned French 20-something wearing a loose white t-shirt and definitely not-loose jeans. But his creepiness is an affable creepiness. He seemed almost embarrassed to call out all the Nicoles in the audience before the band launched into a song called “Fuck Nicole.” If it weren’t for the fact they he’s rounded up two smokin’ women to play drums and keyboard on tour, I’d suspect him to be a much more modest lothario than his songs make him out to be.
But, alas, Delafon showed his bewitching perv-ness — and ingenious crowd-engaging techniques — by calling all willing females in the audience to get on the stage to dance and sing part of the charming hook for “Homecoming” (that’s the one that goes, “I fucked my American cunt.”) It was fitting: While Team Robspierre brought themselves to the audience, The Teenagers brought the audience to them — or at least the part of the audience they were interested in grinding up against. Those uninhibited, secure fuckers.