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Obligatory Black Kids Screed: Their Band Could Be Your Friends: Black Kids, Cut Copy, Sonar, Saturday May 17

May 20, 2008

| Image by Frank Hamilton

It’s not that the Black Kids are a bad band. They are not unfun, poor musicians, or without some charisma. (Though onstage, they do look genuinely a little awkward and shy.) Especially for being so very young and so very new to the game, they do what they do very well, but what they do–namely, shameless indie pop–is equivalent to sugar-free bubblegum, and however well they do it, it’s still going to be dull. They’re very famous for this now: Pitchfork/blog accolades, a recording contract with Columbia, and the seldom-acknowledged signifier of hitting it big, backlash.

The nagging thing is knowing that in every city larger than, say, Buffalo, N.Y., there are no less than 10 indie-pop bands that, plugged into the sound system of and placed atop a midsized venue’s stage, would have the same net effect on the room–specifically, making it very, very hot, full, and motionless–that the Black Kids did last Saturday night. You can bet that every one of Baltimore’s theoretical 10 indie-pop contenders had a representative in the audience at Sonar, and you can bet every one of their eyes lit up with hope.

Simply, the Black Kids are arbitrary. It’s not necessarily their fault: Indie pop at large, extra- and post-Elephant Six, is arbitrary. The Shins are arbitrary with good movie placement; Mates of State are arbitrary with better hooks; Blitzen Trapper is country leaning arbitrary; the Black Kids are arbitrary with two keyboard players, arbitrary with a baited band name, arbitrary with another pair of pretty voices. None of it is inspiring anything; none of it is pushing, prodding, or even acknowledging music moving forward. That the Black Kids are already–without a frigging album–selling out rooms far bigger than Sonar’s club room is bothersome, and seeing their eventual album climb the charts faster than Wincing the Night Away will, by then, be comedy. (There is, however, something to be said for the band’s earnestness: The toxic narcissism [Justice, et al.] and irony [the Teenagers] that’s been cluttering the hype-mobile over the past year was about to give this writer an ulcer.)

By the by, we missed opener Ponytail, which played at 9–on a Saturday? WTF!?–but are told the band absolutely slayed.


Cut Copy headlined, and, frankly, there isn’t much to say about it. The band plays disco-y new wave throwbacks that, at points, sound way too close to Depeche Mode for comfort; New Order, too. It’s a mite cheesy, disarmingly basic–at least by the standards of electronic-ish dance music in 2008–and you don’t get much more than an indie-typical stage show. Unless its encore went on for 20 minutes–we had to leave for, you know, a thing–Cut Copy played a wicked short set, which was kind of a shame because Sonar just then turned on the air conditioning. (The heat was starting to make people look a little crazy.)

The crowd at this point was way more interesting than the band. As mentioned above, the large faction of frat boys–but not a whole lot of sorority girls to complement–in the room was endlessly fascinating. Popped collars, ball caps, cargo shorts, skate shoes with ankle socks, and buzz cut/fat neck decorated dudes dancing at the stage–with each other?–who would bust you in the face if you called them “gay.” This writer, who tries very hard not to be snide, laughed at loud at least once when one of the above archetypes pointed at his just-bought T-shirt pulled over his polo and said, shit you not, “This is bomber.” Almost as funny, City Paper photographer Frank Hamilton was called “queer” for trying to take pictures in the front row. All in all, give Cut Copy credit for some of the best people-watching this spring.

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