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Q: What's worse than having to see one of your favorite bands in a venue you hate?
A: Having to see bands you've never even heard of in a venue you hate.
Q: What's better than forgetting the horrible venue you're in because your favorite band swept you off your feet?
A: Forgetting the horrible venue you're in because bands you've never even heard of swept you off your feet.

This was my experience last night at Emo's. I brought two friends with me for moral support, just in case the bands were horrible, or even worse, mediocre. I brought a book. I even downloaded a game onto my phone, just in case. And then Communiqué got on stage.

Instantly catchy, the music pulled me into its own little world, which is vaguely New Wave, but with keys that sometimes sound like Grandaddy and vocals like Tim Kasher, if he stayed in key and didn't scream so much. The band exuded a kind of quiet intensity, the sure sign of a grown-up punk kid, which in fact, these guys are. I wish I had been more familiar with the music before seeing them live; they had that intimate, sing-along kind of vibe that I wanted so badly to participate in but couldn't. I learned later that they played two songs from their old EP, A Crescent Honeymoon, mostly new songs from their recently released full-length, Poison Arrows, and one unreleased, brand spankin' new song called "Baby, I'm Leaving You."

There wasn't a lot of dialogue or time wasting; they flowed from one song to the next, carrying the audience along with them. In fact, I noticed as I looked around the room that it was unusually crowded and quiet for an opening act. Emo's crowds are notoriously rude to the early shows, but this time they seemed as wrapped up in what was happening as I was, and therefore relatively polite. Whether or not Communiqué noticed or understood this, I don't know. I hope that at least they instinctively felt and appreciated the attentiveness. And I hope they come back soon.

Best Lies
Dagger Vision
Cross Your Heart
Perfect Weapon
Black Curses
Evening in the City
Baby, I'm Leaving You
My Bay

Now, I was only supposed to review Communiqué and These Arms Are Snakes, but since when have I ever done what I'm supposed to? However, since I am stealing space, I'll only steal a little. I just want to say that I was completely blown away by Murder By Death. I don't know where these kids came from, how long they've been around, how many of them have been to art or music school, who they are, or any of the other important information someone would want to know about a band. All I know is that I was on the point of tears throughout their entire set. The piano and the cello in this band are mind-blowingly impressive, and yet still beautiful and accessible. And even though my description thus far makes them sound like some stodgy art-fag act, they are undeniably ROCK. Do yourself a favor and see these kids next time they're in your town; it just might save your life.

Headlining the show were Jade Tree troublemakers, These Arms Are Snakes. I would like to preface this review by quoting the brilliant Mr. Stephin Merritt (Magnetic Fields, 6ths, Future Bible Heroes, Gothic Archies): "I plan to explore seizure-raising mixing techniques…That's the way we find out more about our brains-we disturb them." Judging by their live show, TAAS are definitely out to find out more about our brains. Holy shit, the drummer! I found out afterwards that TAAS doesn't currently have a regular drummer, so for this part of the tour they borrowed Erin Tate of Minus the Bear. Uhhh…yeah…this guy kicks ass. And he doesn't even have to get up off his own to do it. Tate wasn't the only one owning the crowd, though: the entire band laid waste to us all. Noisy, raucous, spastic, but always tight, they reminded my friends and me of an underground crossbreed between At the Drive-In and Rage Against the Machine.

Singer Steve Snere strutted like a rooster but screamed like a cat. Guitarist Ryan Frederiksen and bassist Brian Cook melted our faces off with their severe and passionate attack on their instruments. They all screamed and danced and initiated the epileptic attacks with a few of their own. The crowd, or at least parts of it, certainly followed where they lead. I was totally absorbed, but also amused. And I can't wait to do it again. If you've ever listened to their album and thought to yourself, "Hm…ok, not bad," I definitely recommend you see them live. There's simply no comparison. If you've never heard of them before, go see them live. If you're a fan, I'm assuming you've already seen them live. I think that just about covers everyone. Keep your eyes peeled for their upcoming LP The Oxeneers or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelope Go Home, being released September 21st.

Grape Dragon
Sea Shanty
Angela's Secret
Big News
Payday Loans
Piña Colada Burg
Run It Through the Dog

- Emily Strong

Photos by Hillary Schmelebeck

These Arms Are Snakes/Murder By Death/Communiqué
Emo's, Austin, TX
July 23, 2004

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