Show Review: Speakeasy Tiger with Nautical Mile
It’s been a long road for Speakeasy Tiger.
Before the black leather and stiff hair, Girl Named Kyle played acoustic songs and wore plaid. When they played Boulder’s Old Main Theater in 2008 with These United States and local folk heroes Fellow Citizens, their songs fit perfectly. The band that played on Thursday night [Jan. 21st] at Club 156 belongs on bills with bands like the Sounds or Metric, and relies heavily on dance beats and synth riffs. They’ve made the transition from analog to digital, and in the process become the band that is Speakeasy Tiger.
They also got a keytar for pianist Pete Schmidt. I know, keytars are the cool thing to do right now, but I’m really conflicted about them. On the one hand, they allow a keyboard player to move around. That’s cool. On the other, you look like a douche when you play. Even when Schmidt gets jamming on some really hot keytar riff that gets everybody moving, I can’t help but think it’s more about the cliché then it is about the sound.
Not to say the sound isn’t good. They certainly have their moments, and I see what all the fuss is about. Bands of lesser caliber have gone on to much bigger things (I’m looking at you Black Kids), and they have the potential to be right up there with plenty of touring acts. While their beats certainly get people dancing, the hooks sometimes feel forced, and they lack the integrity they had in their former incarnation. Still, singer Kyle Simmons has a voice with a distinct Tegan and Sara influence, particularly on “Limbs” and “Can’t Trust Myself,” both from 2009′s The Public. It serves her well and provides a welcome contrast to the otherwise predictable pop.
Local Hometown for the Holidays finalists Nautical Mile opened Thursday night. While the “melodic punk” label they use to describe themselves certainly applies, their polished, radio-ready sound reflects a band with musicianship and refinement. Singer Rachel Cummings’ voice often draws comparisons to acts like Paramore and Avril Lavigne, and understandably so. She sings with confidence and control, and her lyrics reflect the same sort of teenage angst. What they possess in talent, however, they lack in originality. We’ve heard this sound before, and some time spent with a St. Vincent or Dirty Projectors record could really do them some good.
Moreover, their stage show lacked the punch of a big-name band. For a group with so much rock in them, their energy was surprisingly subdued. Both guitarists looked preoccupied with their parts and rarely did more than study their guitar necks. For all her strengths as a singer, Cummings lacked the command and je ne sais quoi of a more accomplished performer. She spent the first half of the show offering free merch to anyone willing to dance, and yet did little more than stand at center stage herself. The most interesting part of their stage show was the blow-up doll they handed to an audience member on the second song, which spent most of the time laying on the ground.
Speakeasy Tiger, by comparison, plays with passion. Simmons uses the whole stage when she sings and Schmidt – for better or worse – takes every opportunity to flaunt his keytar to the crowd. They have chemistry and charisma. When they play a few weeks of Warp Tour stops this summer, the energy they bring to their live show will definitely have scores of underage hipsters-to-be awkwardly dancing while straining to look apathetic. They’re more than musicians; they’re showmen. However, as of Thursday’s show, their performance surpasses their music.
I’ll definitely be interested in hearing their sophomore effort, when the novelty of dance beats gives way to the authenticity I know they’re capable of. For now, it’s wait and see for Speakeasy Tiger.