Cold Summer: 2 Time Quitters, Raspberry Campaign, Engine, Ottobar, July 2
Raspberry Campaign | Image by Al Shipley
If there was ever any doubt as to the effectiveness of the Ottobar’s air conditioning and ceiling fans, their worth was amply proven on Wednesday night. When the house is packed, the room inevitably heats up until the ceiling is dripping with condensation. But at a sparsely attended show–the performers and their friends, basically–it can get downright chilly when the AC is firing on all cylinders and there are few hot bodies around to balance things out. Meanwhile, the show itself was one of those carelessly booked all-local bills where none of the three bands appeared to have any common ground, from MT6 bedroom noise to wispy acoustic music to rowdy riff-rockers.
The bedroom noisemaker that opened the show was Engine, a kid with an Orioles cap tucked firmly over his face who stood at a table full of pedals and synths, squirting out woozy soundscapes and wordlessly warbling through at least three layers of vocal effects. And he was literally a kid, or at least a minor–the club put X’s on his hands so that the bar wouldn’t serve him, and it appeared that his parents were in the audience. But the kind of shapeless yet restlessly creative tones that Engine makes are fun for all ages of anti-pop miscreants. It just wasn’t clear exactly how out of place he was on the bill until the next band took the stage.
The Raspberry Campaign, a Rockville-based quartet that formed just six months ago, played its second show ever on Wednesday. But the band, who swaps instruments between songs and trades vocals between three of its members, has already built up a large enough catalog of songs for a 45-minute set, though the quality varied wildly from song to song–the bespectacled bassist’s one lead vocal was uneventful, while the male guitarist and the female cellist each sang some promising tunes, and some terribly dull ones. With most of the songs revolving around some combination of acoustic and electric guitars, bass, and keyboards, with occasional cello, Raspberry Campaign’s mellow college-rock sound was fully fleshed out save for one crucial element: drums. It’s possible RC’s lack of percussion is a deliberate aesthetic decision. But if it isn’t, here’s hoping they find a drummer fast, because the majority of the band’s songs were just dying for a little bit of timekeeping.
However, the last band of the night, 2 Time Quitters, were a reminder that a band with a drummer isn’t always better than no drummer at all. Granted, it might be churlish to knock the chops of a band that humbly describes itself on its MySpace page as “4 good friends and 4 mediocre musicians creating music we like to play and hear.” But it was truly painful to watch the Quitters’ drummer struggle to hold a tempo, and time and time again attempt an ambitious fill that would cause his shaky coordination to fall apart entirely. Still, the band, apparently previously known by the slightly better name of the Sub Wookies, clearly enjoyed its time onstage, running through its set of endearingly generic alt-rock originals. One of the band’s only songs that was catchy enough to be worth putting on your iPod was, helpfully, titled “The iPod Song,” and instructed you to do just that. If these guys practiced a little harder, and maybe started getting good and drunk before their shows, they could be a kick-ass party band. As it stands, however, they were just another so-so band at the Ottobar, on a night when the best reason to be there was to stay out of the summer heat.