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Tapes ‘n Tapes at Turf Club (St. Paul, MN)

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An announcement made via the band’s mailing list and MySpace site the day of the show excited the limited few who came across the information: Tapes ‘n Tapes would be the surprise headliners to the already exciting Vampire Hands/The Blind Shake show at the Turf Club. While hearing the nationally recognized band play around the city is nothing new, it was the lack of advanced warning combined with the small club atmosphere and the allure of new music that peaked excitement for the show long before the work-day had let out. The foreboding bulletin on the band’s MySpace read, “That’s right kids, we’re playing a show tonight @ the Turf Club in St. Paul. We can’t tell you how excited we are. It’s true that we’re always talking about how excited we are about things, but we’re REALLY excited about this show. It’s with two of our favorite MSP bands, Vampire Hands and Blind Shake. And it’s gonna rule! We hope you can come on down. We’re gonna be playing all of Walk it Off (minus one song), and just straight rock-rock-rawkin! Be there or be square, Tapes ‘n Tapes.

The Blind Shake opened the night’s heavily anticipated show with a blistering set, each song short and simple yet echoing a sense of lightheartedness. Fronted by the brothers Blaha the band’s sound is defined through staggering power chords far jagged and sharper than the like of fantastic local drone duo Gay Witch Abortion. The band’s excitement barely held the brothers on the stage as they bounced about, each Blaha flailing a bit with their uniform black jacket and bald head. Drummer Dave Roper did little to keep the band’s energy in check as he crashed about his set, enticing the duo to maintain their go for broke mentality. After losing power to one guitar and breaking a string on another the band completed its set, and in doing so opened the show with enough energy make certain the the crowd was completely invested in the music despite the overwhelming headliners’ presence.

Following The Blind Shake were Vampire Hands, an eclectic group sporting a similar arrangement to that of Brooklyn’s Yeasayer who recently played a set at the 7th St. Entry. The group was well received, though the timing seemed a bit uncertain at times as drummer Alex Rose and co-front man Colin Johnson found themselves occasionally out of sync in their set-long drum procession. Notably reserved was bassist Chris Bierden whose vocal contributions were overshadowed during the set by Johnson, partially restraining the band from reflecting one of its strongest assets.

Around 12:30 the members of Tapes ‘n Tapes finished setting up their gear, each making their final approach to the stage before lead singer Josh Grier leveled a brief introduction as the band broke into the first song of the set.

In his review of the show, The Onion’s Christopher Bahn tossed about his first impressions of the band’s latest songs, “I didn’t hear anything that grabbed me with the immediacy of ‘Insistor’ or ‘Cowbell;’ before partially relenting, “Tapes have always been a better-in-the-studio band for me.” But through direct contrast, as the band played “Insistor” later in the set for instance, there seemed to be various songs from the new album that popped a bit louder and helped expand the experience of seeing the band play live. One such song was introduced by Grier, “we recorded it in a bubble,” attempting to distance his song from Patti Page’s “Conquest” recently popularized last year by The White Stripes.

Possibly the greatest confirmation of the night came when the band performed Walk It Off’s first single, “Hang Them All.” The track, which has received its share of both positive and negative feedback from the same internet hype-machine that pumped 2005’s The Loon to bloated proportions, was genuinely strong in the live setting. The track itself proposes a different side to the group, one reserving more of a traditional role that showcases a well defined and thoughtfully constructed chorus. Aside from the occasional equipment delay and loose atmosphere which the smaller St. Paul club contributed to – the band’s showcase confirmed that the music that is on its way with the forthcoming Walk It Off will not let fans down in the least.