Sunday, October 17, 2004

The Faint / Webster Hall / Oct. 15, 2004

Now here’s an example of dead fish electro that comes alive and starts flapping around uncontrollably when it hits the stage. The Faint’s sleek, dark club-goth-pop gives off no heat whatsoever on record, but inspires me to dance like a robot while pondering a joyless post-human future—in a good way. Their new album, Wet from Birth, also contains some of the best synthesized strings ever to be programmed by someone other than Dr. Dre. But as I learned from interviewing the band for Mean magazine (plug, plug), the guys in the band are just a bunch of goofballs who do stuff like ride around Omaha in fake ten-speed bike gangs, scam major labels they have no intention of signing to for free meals and CDs, and moon arenas full of No Doubt fans. They are not fashionistas or arteeests. They make music because they have nothing better to do, and it’s fun.

All that came across completely in their performance at a packed-to-the-gills Webster Hall Friday night. I scored a choice balcony spot overlooking the hordes of adorable little indie/goth kids, ideal for robot dancing while watching the mosh pit activities below. (Yes, there was a mosh pit at a Faint show. Yes, I’m as surprised as you are.) Starting with the how-babies-are-made narrative “Birth” (“In the beginning there was semen”—greatest opening line of the year?), the band plunged into a tight, taut set that drew mostly from Wet From Birth with a few choice older songs like “Agenda Suicide,” “Your Retro Career Melted” and “Worked Up So Sexual,” as well as a cover of the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer”. That last one is hard to pull off, and I’ve seen quite a few groups fail, but the Faint pumped it up with enough jittery juice to make it work. However, I would have much rather heard their version of Sonic Youth’s “Mote,” but I’m weird like that.

The boys’ nerdy dance moves were quite endearing, particularly those of guitarist Dapose (who used to be a long-haired heavy metal dude), who boogied more than he played. And mad props must be given to whoever made the videos accompanying each song. Sumptuous visual feasts timed perfectly to fit every rhythmic contour, they were distracting enough that I often forgot I was at a rock concert and not a movie. Time for a DVD, guys!