The Wrens, Army of Me, The Upwelling at the Black Cat – February 11, 2005

February 12th, 2005 · No Comments · By

Seeing the Wrens ended my fear of growing old. I have long been terrified of aging, losing touch with interesting and inspiring music, and generally turning into a cranky old man. It seems as though, somewhere in late 20s/early 30s the appeal of indie rock begins to decline. People start families, get real jobs, and move to the suburbs. How depressing. But the Wrens having given me hope.

Meadowlands was probably my favorite album of 2003. Therefore, while driving up to see them at the Black Cat in D.C., I had pretty high expectations. Since they are older guys, I didn't really expect that rocking of a show. Decent renditions of the songs would have sufficed. But the Wrens gave so much more.

The show began with guitarist Charles Bissell, alone on stage carefully crafting a loop using his many effects pedals/modules, and leading into the first song. The entire band took the stage and rocked through a set dense with songs from Meadowlands, as well as a few older ones. Bassist/vocalist Kevin Whelan showed a charisma and energy onstage that the two young opening bands sorely, sorely missed. He bounced and hurled himself around the stage, at one point even knocking over Charles in the middle of a song. At one point he told the crowd 'Thank you SO FUCKING much.' He went on to describe how he and Charles had first stood in the Black Cat in 1995, when they saw Jawbox and Shudder to Think, and dreamed of one day being on the stage. During 'House That Guilt Built', drummer Jerry MacDonnell took to the microphone for a heartfelt duet with Kevin. The entire set combined their beautiful melodies together with an amazingly powerful delivery, and the result was one of the best shows I've seen in quite a while.

The contrast between the opening bands and the Wrens was huge. The lead singer of the Upwelling, pointed out the fact that is grandmother was in attendance and dedicated at least three songs to her. He and the band seemed completely caught up in the spotlight, oblivious to the graces that have allowed them to play at the Black Cat, especially with such ridiculously bland songs. Army of Me displayed a similar cockiness and blandness. I feel that these young bands could learn so much from the Wrens. Or maybe what the Wrens have can only be attained by 15 or so years of experiencing life, working hard, and enduring the pitfalls and disillusionment that the music business provides. Next to the Wrens, the Upwelling and Army of Me seem naïve and clueless. I doubt they will ever last to be middle-aged indie rock stars. But the Wrens have proved that doing so isn't a complete impossibility.

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