By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
Here's a shocker: a five-band bill at the Chain, where we actually have something to say that registers in the Nice-to-Slobbering range, an occasion topped only by the moment when we uncovered the secret access code for the hidden (and vastly cleaner) toilet in the club's back room. That we liked so much in a single night (granted, the tunes were mostly emo- and punk-free, which always helps) begs the question: Are we getting softer, or is the music getting better?
Take the Energy, a Santa Ana band we normally rip just for having a name that practically demands mockery. And yet they weren't half bad, with heaps of squiggly guitars, a frenetic drummer and a scant three songs in a half-hour set that might have made them come off like some horribly self-indulgent jam-band wank job, but instead felt endearing. Their tunes were like mini-epics, with wide-ranging references that recalled everything from Motörhead to the Monkees (actually, now that we think about it, maybe their songs went on forever because they didn't know how to stop them, one reference leading so naturally to another, like footnotes on footnotes in a David Foster Wallace novel). Perhaps they fantasize about being a poppier Crazy Horse; with a tad more cohesion, they'd be near-almost-perfect.
The Bay Area's Plus Ones should've been called the Just Ones, seeing as only one member of the band bothered showing up (though he was helped out on guitar by Limbeck's Patrick Carrie). It was mostly an acoustic set, but there were some fine songs filled with good-to-great hooks and funny lyrics about such modern dramas as being jealous of your lover's Friendster friends. By the end, we were aching for the full-band Plus Ones experience, and then a couple of guys came out to help with, of all things, a "Hey Ya!" cover, which was about as close as we'd get without a drive to NoCal.
Seattle's the Pale were into covers, too—this time a "Walking On the Moon" take so deconstructed as to render it unintelligible, which is how most covers ought to be done, really. They were equal parts raw and droney for the first half of their set, before delving into a whirl of wispy vocals and quiet keyboard tones that had the normally ADHD Chain crowd silenced and enraptured. And whatever their final song was, it was pretty phenomenal—an awesome, angry, joyous guitar riff they rode and rode into oblivion. We love to see young bands discover the power and the glory of the almighty Telecaster!
Rocky Votolato, another Seattleite, was the second solo guy on the bill, a singer/songwriter type (fresh from a Bionic in-store!) whose excellent numbers he inflected with occasional harmonica outbursts, frequently coming off like a far superior Dashboard Confessional, minus the incessant whine. He sang about prisoners and mix tapes and the night's disguises wearing thin, and his pretty, poignant picking made practically everything he did sound like the perfect early-morning music.
And then the band we came for, the majestic Limbeck, whom we hadn't seen live since their scrappier, struggling days back around 1999. That was when they were doing Weezerish pop/punk. Now, they're a whole other—and far superior—band, something like a Replacements-esque rock & roll outfit peppered with generous doses of alt.-country. We've had many satisfying moments on this six-year-long gig of ours—pissy songs written about us, people forging our name to get free stuff—but nothing's more satisfying than to witness a merely good band evolve into something approaching total fucking godhead, which is where Limbeck is right now. So they come out and prove themselves with just about every song off their fantastic new album, Hi, Everything's Great, and all of it sounded amazing, especially "Brand New Orange" and "Tan + Blue" and "Silver Things," and then they went and did Bob Dylan's "If You Gotta Go, Go Now," and it was completely honest and sincere, maybe the first and last unironic Dylan tune the Chain Reaction walls had or will ever hear. Limbeck were incredible—loud, pure and blazing, and Carrie didn't even have to rip his guitar apart like he looked to be doing to get their point across. This all happened 48 hours ago as we write this, and we're still grinning like idiots at the memories. So the old Limbeck is dead—forever live the new Limbeck!