People thought rock was dead; Interpol showed us otherwise.
Legendary post-punk band Interpol came to shred underneath the disco ball at the CalCoast Credit Union Open Air Theater, just one of many stops on their North American tour promoting their sixth studio album, Marauder. Completing the night’s bill were indie-rock trio Sunflower Bean and punk duo The Kills – a lineup which had several of my friends drooling with envy when I told them I’d be in attendance. Which, if I’m being honest, left me more than a little confused. Who listens to rock anymore? Punk hasn’t been cool since the Arctic Monkeys abandoned ship and indie-rock is teetering on the edge of irrelevance post-Mac Demarco. Although these claims may border on outrageous, it cannot be denied that the rock genre has been eclipsed in recent years by pop, EDM, and hip-hop.
Clearly none of the groups on stage got that memo.
Kicking off the night in outfits that would make any art hoe scream “yassss queen,” Sunflower Bean came to rock n roll. Straying from the Fleetwood Mac-influenced sound of their studio recordings, the trio amped up the energy with ripping solos from guitarist Nick Kivlen and raw, throaty vocals from singer/bassist Julia Cumming. With their blonde heads a-banging and trousers a-sparkling, Sunflower Bean’s entire existence pays homage to the genre which birthed them. Unfortunately, the band did suffer from the Indifferent Crowd Syndrome (ICS) that commonly plagues opening acts. Despite seemingly fazing the band, they still left the stage with this bold statement: “We’re Sunflower Bean and don’t you forget it!” Don’t worry, girl, I won’t.
Up next came the skinny-jean clad duo The Kills. The most notable aspect of their performance was the “the strut;” considering it’s been 15 years since their first LP, singer Allison Mosshart’s ability to own whatever stage her leather boots find themselves is downright impressive. Limbs rolling, long blond hair flowing, her control and ease over the environment is almost enough to compensate for the incomplete sound produced by the two guitars and drum kit. With moody, analog interludes, experimental guitar synths, the Kills are looking to take the genre somewhere. Where exactly, they have no definitive answer.
At this point in the show, I was still inclined to believe that rock n roll is dead. Sunflower Bean and the Kills were both great bands, but neither seem to have the potential to revive the ailing genre. But as I furiously typed notes into my phone, I heard it. Life. The audience roars and rises to their feet as Interpol arrived to save us all.
Let me paint the scene for ya. A dark stage. Simple white spotlights cast light from behind the band, creating an eerie shadow of a band already dressed black. Then a single white light behind center stage rises to meet the disco ball, splaying light out to the crowd. It’s a simple set-up, but effective; Interpol’s music can speak for itself. You get the feeling they are at the service of the music. The band has mastered a suave rock sound that seduces you with every melancholy lyric singer Paul Banks wails with his haunting twang, and I am hit by a wall of sound, filled with textures and colors I’ve seen before, but perhaps not in this combination. Every song “bangs” and I can’t help but move my body to the beat, swaying my head back and forth so that I could hear every note. You can listen to Interpol’s entire set with your eyes closed, the music is a show in and of itself. And then it’s over, and I feel as if I’ve been abruptly woken from a sweet dream. The band humbly exits, it’s duty to the music completed: “We are Interpol, and that’s what we got.”
So, much to my chagrin, rock does live! It has bands like Interpol to keep its heart beating, and an audience desperate to consume it. The problem is that we’ve heard all these sounds before. Interpol’s music is superb, but the band has done little experimenting in their long career. I guess it’s true, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, but sticking with a sound that just works isn’t enough to compete with pop and hip-hop artists who cater to fans with an incessant appetite for new content. Interpol’s Marauder is enough to keep rock alive, if only just alive.