On Saturday the Rentals were in town, on their first full-blown tour in a very long time. I caught their mini tour in the fall in NYC (which was outstanding) and was jazzed to see them again. One does not pass up an opportunity to see Matt Sharp perform live. Unless one is an idiot.
The DC show was at my favorite small venue, the Rock and Roll Hotel. As an aside, RNR is killing it with their 2015 schedule thus far. It’s been the best overall DC schedule by a long shot. Step up your booking game, Black Cat and 9:30 Club!
Radiation City opened to a very sparse crowd. The ladies of RC are also serving the female vocals and Moog duties for the Rentals this go around. They were okay – sort of dream poppy with a little California beach vibe – but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see them again.
Rey Pila were up next. Their set at ACL was better. The crowd didn’t seem to get into them, which bummed out the lead singer (who at one point came over to me mid-song for a high five, presumably because I was the only person dancing in the front row). The bass volume was way too loud, it drowned out everything else that was happening. The bass synth was even louder. Go for more balance next time, sound guy. At least I had ear plugs with me.
The Rentals have a lot of members in their live show (six) and a lot of Moogs (four) to fit on stage. The stage at RNR is pretty tiny, so it was a bit clown car-ish (though not as bad as when Typhoon played there). The ladies and Moogs took center stage with all the guitar players basically hidden in the corners (which is a bummer because Ryen Slegr is one of my favorite guitar players). Matt’s mic stand was center, but back by the drums (and despite my front row location, one of the Moog stands blocked him and the drums almost entirely). Luckily he only played bass for a few songs and stood on the edge of the stage all of two feet away from me for the rest of the set. The volume of the drum triggers was really quiet but otherwise the band sounded great. The RC ladies were good, though not as good as the women that Matt had with him for the fall mini tour. The rest of the backing back was pretty similar. Someday I’d love to see Lucius sing the songs they recorded with Matt for Lost in Alphaville.
The band started off in white Moog lab coats while Matt rocked a Japanese style black suit. Those outfits would last only a few songs because it was really hot in the venue. Three songs into the 22-song set Matt busted out the first Return of the Rentals track of the night (“Waiting”) and the energy in the room elevated exponentially. Next they did my favorite “Please Let That Be You” before dedicating “My Summer Girl” to Hilary Clinton, which seemed more humorous than political. “1,000 Seasons” and the rest of the newer tracks went over well, as did their cover of “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”
Before one of the Alphaville tracks, Matt gushed about how much he enjoyed working with Ryen on the new record and one of the many Weezer cruise alums in the crowd started our favorite “Ozma Cruise!” chant. Then Matt gave me a shout out for my Ozma shirt. So lots of Ozma love all around (next time take them with you on tour, Matt!).
Matt draped himself in a FC Barcelona flag (vomit) for “Barcelona” but I guess I have to forgive him for horrible taste in football team considering how many of my favorite albums he’s made over the years (easily three of my top ten and two of my top five). “Big Daddy C” and “Getting By” closed out the set. Matt and the RC ladies went to the center of the room for the first song of the encore which I could neither see nor hear well then rejoined the rest of the band on stage for “Traces of Our Tears” and one of my favorite songs to hear live, “Friends of P” (which like the Irving Plaza show morphed into the Ghostbusters theme song, this time with Matt dressed as a Ghostbuster and someone else in a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man suit). Looking at the set list after the show I appreciate that this was referred to as “Operation Marshmallow.”