November 16, 2004

After divisive MAB show, each fan defends his band

Indie-rock darlings the Walkmen and drunk-rock darling Ryan Adams played MAB's fall show this past Saturday at Mandel Hall. Voices Editor Andy Marchesseault and Voices Less-Than Editor Brad Heffern were there. This is their story.

Andy: So, Brad—I came into this show with high hopes. The Walkmen (New Yorkers by way of D.C.) absolutely rocked my socks off when I saw them this summer, and I was expecting more of the same for the MAB show. Plus, their latest album is really good, and I already have it penciled in as my number two record of the year. As for Ryan Adams, I was just hoping that he could get through his set without excessive inane banter and/or songs from his Rock N Roll album. What were you feeling, bro?

Brad: Well Andy, I also had high hopes—but for different reasons. Ryan Adams rocked my socks off and weepily lured them back on at the Vic in 2002; not to mention he's a sexy bastard. As for the Walkmen, I also found Bows + Arrows—their latest—to be a solid record, but having neither heard about nor seen their live show, I had no expectations.

Andy: Well, were you in for a treat. The Walkmen are great on record, but they turn the intensity up a little in concert. There's no excess to their show: They come on, play their nuanced form of rock music, mumble a few things between songs, and then get off stage. Yes, The Walkmen are a bit derivative, and yes, they look like they're probably assholes (they're actually not—more on that later). But who isn't? And their lead singer's name is Hamilton Leithauser, so let's not split hairs here.

Brad: Yep, that is a terrific name. They did put on a good show, too. The energy was impressive, but I found the constant beer spilling and grimacing a little forced. In addition, the singer seemed a little pissed at times about the half-full house. I also saw the bassist stop playing at one point to tell the keyboard player "I'm hot." But you can't deny that they played some real jams.

Andy: Point taken about all the rock 'n' roll theatrics. Personally, when a band plays songs as good as "Little House of Savages" (song two), "The Rat" (song 11), and "Wake Up" (last song), I'll give them all the Miller-splashing and sweater vest-wearing they want. Also, I normally don't like screaming in rock songs (not a fan of hardcore), but I did enjoy seeing Leithauser really tear into a bunch of those songs. Maybe it was because I already knew the words and could follow along, but it worked for me.

Brad: Yeah, it is pretty fun to see him grand mal around up there, and who doesn't like beer? And "The Rat" is clearly the best song ever. But let's move on to Ryan Adams. Now I realize that Ryan might be on your list of people to kill, but I thought it was a good concert. I initially thought that the mixture of Ryan Adams and a small campus show was a recipe for disaster. But it seemed that he put his full effort into it, and he even shrugged off the dickface "Summer of '69" yells. At first he looked a little uncomfortable, but he settled in nicely, and never really seemed disappointed with the small crowd.

Andy: Okay, I do like many Ryan Adams songs. But I get chills just thinking of the Ryan-worshippers hoisting him on their shoulders (literally) at the Riviera last December, after they had paid 30 bucks to see a set of mostly mediocre '80s rock rip-offs. The show on Saturday wasn't much better. Maybe it was the Ron Wood meets Rod Stewart hair. Maybe it was his insipid, recurring jabs at the easy target Toby Keith. Maybe it was the fact that he took 28 minutes between each song. Whatever the reason, Ryan live just rubs me the wrong way, and I think a lot of people felt the same way. Didn't you see the crowd dwindling after each interminably long break?

Brad: I think part of it is expectations. A lot of people don't like Ryan Adams despite the fact that they've never heard him. I mean, Paul from the Walkmen said, "I actually don't know Ryan Adams, but I suspect that he's terrible." The audience tends to ruin a lot of shows as well, like when Ryan had to stop playing "SYLVIA PLATH" in the middle because someone kept laughing. That girl should be expelled. But I've never been to any shows that are more intimate. I mean, how many performers do four audience requests, or stop to wish someone happy birthday? Ryan Adams alone on stage is worth my 30 bucks no matter what he does.

Andy: Well, I'm glad that at least you liked it. Maybe I'm just letting personal bias get in the way. I mean, when I was backstage after the Walkmen set, Ryan flat-out denied my interview request! As for the Walkmen, they let me hang around in their dressing room until a few songs into Ryan's set. They were laid-back, unpretentious, and even bought their sweaters on sale at Bloomingdale's ($17 for cashmere). There are many more quips where that last one came from (that was my quote, Brad), but we're nearing our thousand-word limit.

Brad: Well, look at it this way: At least Ryan had the respect to watch the Walkmen set, while the Walkmen were more interested in hanging around with your dumb ass while Ryan played. So fuck you, Marchesseault.

Andy: Fuck you, Heffern. And tell Ryan to comb his hair.