Review - New Amsterdams/the Lashes Live

Last night’s lineup was something that Don Nelson would have put together. Nothing seemed to make sense, and deep inside, you had to wonder if it would work. The headline act was the alt-country band, the New Amsterdams. Pairing them with a local band – Castle Project - whose goal seems to be writing the songs that will be used in any subsequent Spider man trailers and an OC friendly, dance punk band from Seattle – the Lashes – didn’t really seem to make sense to me. Regardless, I was excited to see the show and thanks to Ewan for hooking me up.

Castle Project was your run-of-the-mill opener. Most of the songs sounded the same, they had a huge group of well-dressed friends who only stayed for the first act and had trouble finding a good vocal range. It was kind of like showing up at the Peach Pitt After Dark and seeing David Silver and crew watching a band they weren't really into. Things were going OK for them but the band struggled as the end.

Their songs, while all very similar and rich in pounding guitar/drum chorus and breakdown style versus, sound like every song you’d find on a soundtrack to movies you don’t much want to see. This might sound like an insult, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. Someone’s got to write those songs, and lots of people want to hear them. I’m just not one of them. As a side note, Castle Project, if you are trying to make your name opening for some national touring bands, it is often a good idea to thank the bands. It is also not a good idea to go over time, and make jokes about it when you get cut off.

Up next was the Lashes. I will be the first to admit that when I saw the CD cover and heard some of the song titles, the Lashes were close to dead to me. Six guys - most of which look like the Strokes - and song titles like A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody are not my bag baby. I’m not really a fan of the 80’s reunion that is running wild in music right now, so when I saw Ben Lashes walk on stage wearing an ensemble Molly Ringwald would have made herself in Pretty in Pink I knew it was going to be tough to win me over. Three belts, 100 bracelets and tight black jeans make it hard for me to take you seriously. So does the robotic Devo-esque dancing.

The thing is, if the band could chillax a bit and not try so hard, they would be a lot more enjoyable. They put a lot of energy in their sets, try to engage the audience and seem genuinely excited to have people listening to them. Their set was high-paced and they ripped through most of the debut album. Ben even climbed up to the upper level during the set closer and shook hands with some fans. The songs they play, once again, aren’t really my style, but I can see how people into the sound would enjoy the set. The band just needs to realize substance over style is where it’s at.

The most awesome thing about them, is Ben looks kind of like Bruce Campbell of Evil Dead fame. I want to be their manager, so I can rework their image. Change the name to the Ash-es and instead of the bracelets and three belts, take your shirt off and bring a chainsaw on stage. Seriously, look at these two pics, and you tell me who you’d rather see up there:

Now, the part of the evening I was excited for: the New Amsterdams. I’ve been a fan of Matt’s work for many years. I cut my emo teeth on Jawbreaker and the Get Up Kids. As I’ve gotten older, and my music tastes have changed, I really appreciated the development of Matt’s now full-time gig, The New Ams. After trying twice to see them tour in support of the Worse for Wear LP, I finally got that chance last night.

The band is touring with a new, but set lineup. Adding the lap steel, and upright bass really adds a great backbone to the songs. The band’s sound has evolved from Matt pouring his heart out over simple acoustic songs, to complex layered and precisely arranged numbers. His lyrics have always told a good story, whether it be life on the road, missing home, or the depression of being trapped in a band he no longer wants to be a part of, but the new lineup really helps these songs take on a new life.

The set opened with my two favorite songs – The Death of Us, and Hover Near Fame – and they focused a lot of the new material. Matt was engaging, and even though Dustin sometimes forgot what he was supposed to be playing, his soloing and GE Smith impression more than made up for it. Other highlights included, Turn Out the Light, Drinking in the Afternoon, My Old Man has a Pistol and Bad Liar – and the instrumental Guitarkansas is truly something that needs to be seen to be appreciated. I think as the band becomes more comfortable playing together and learns a bit more of the catalog, the sets will be even better.

Daily Links::
MP3:: Shins – new song (via YANP)
MP3:: John Vanderslice – Exodus Damage:Alias Remix (via SMS)
MP3:: New Ams - Turn Out the Light
MP3:: Whitest Boy Alive - Dead End (via stereogum)

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