Opening Bands: The Damnwells
Date: February 23rd 2005
Venue: Crowbar, State College, PA
This show was another late start for all those in attendance. The opening band, The Damnwells didn’t come on stage until about 9:30 PM. Once again, the start time was listed as 9 PM. The crowd kept themselves entertained with some common Western Pennsylvanian phrases such as “Here we go Steelers”, “F*#k the Eagles”, and “We want some beer”. Time seemed to pass quickly though, and before you knew it, the Damnwells were onstage. Unfortunately, almost everyone in the crowd would have been better off if the Damnwells would have just stayed at home.
From the looks of the band members, which ranged from Conway Twitty to Gavin Rossdale, they didn’t seem to know exactly where they were at or what they were doing there. Apparently, the delay was due to the fact that all four members of the band were in the back hitting the bong and shooting up. They groggily tuned their instruments for a few seconds and then kicked out their first jam. Well not really. Their first song…followed by their second, and then their third, left much to be desired. Their style was very similar to a more mellow, not quite-rock sound like Fastball or later Goo Goo Dolls. Only it lacked any hooks or catchy riffs. The masses seemed to all agree…the Damnwells sucked. A few male audience members seemed to take a liking to the bass player and his Poncho Villa-like mustache. Chants rang out. “We like your mustache.” Mr. Bassplayer must have felt special because he gave his newfound fans a few waves. The chants continued for a brief period…well until the band realized that the crowd was mocking the bass player. Poor guy. It must have felt like high school all over again for him. During a break between songs, the lead singer commented on something like that he thought kids came to Penn State to learn and that apparently they’re dumb or something of that sort. After that comment, the Damnwells seemed to have lost their only two fans in the crowd (Mr. Bassplayer’s friends) and were welcomed with a continuous chorus of boos. It’s sad to say, but this was the most entertainment that this band provided me with. I wonder if they managed to escape the drunken mob that was waiting for them after the show. All in all, this was a horrible opening band that seemed dazed and confused most of the show. Their songs were long and drawn out with very little Umph to them…and you couldn’t understand a single word that the singer was saying. I honestly can’t remember the name of a single song or how any one of them even went. Two thumbs down…waaaay down. The Clarks were up next and I was confident that all would surely be set right.
First off, a little bit of information about the Clarks for those who have never heard of them…which is most likely everyone that reads this review. The Clarks are a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania based indie rock band. The band formed in way back in 1988 and they are constantly touring up and down the East Coast. They are very popular in the Western PA region and have gained limited national exposure, even landing on of their songs at the end credits of the Anna Nicole Smith Show. Their influences range from classic rock, to blues, to bluegrass and country music. Their sound is a straight-ahead garage rock/pop groove similar to the likes of classic Aerosmith or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The songs almost never sound the same in tempo and in style. This variation and variety is what draws me to the Clarks. That amalgamation of musical styles along with their excellent song writing never ceases to amaze me. Having lived in Pittsburgh for a little over four years, I had never had the opportunity to catch the Clarks live. This was my first chance to see what I have heard of as one of the best acts in the Burgh. On with the show, I say!
The Clarks didn’t make the crowd wait very long. A ten minute setup and some more “Here we go Steelers” chants and…there they were. They opened up with one of their most popular songs, “Snowman”, and followed it up with a few new songs off of their latest album “Fast Moving Cars”. There was no let up until about five songs into the set. The band then introduced themselves to the crowd (as if we already didn’t know who they were), and mingled with the audience for a few minutes. Some more hardcore rocking out soon followed this introduction. The Clarks played some of their older songs, some of their faster rockabilly/country songs, a bunch of new songs, and a handful of their more popular, radio friendly songs. The set list included songs that receive a lot of local airplay such as Born Too Late, Better Off Without You, Maybe, On Saturday, and Hell On Wheels, along with some lesser know hits such as Train Of Love, The Letter, and She Revolves. There was definitely a lot of energy onstage and off. The more the crowd cheered, the harder and louder the band played. There was even a freestyle blues jam session complete with a harmonica device reminiscent of Neil Young. The band ended the show with an encore of one of my, and apparently everyone else in the crowd’s favorite songs…Cigarette. Someone from the audience tossed Scott Blasey, the lead singer of the Clarks, a baseball cap and a cigarette which he put on and lit up for the entire length of the song. At the end of the song he then threw the cap back to the same kid complete with a coating of smoke and sweat. The show ended with a loud roar of applause and the lights went dim.
I was convinced of the rumors concerning a Clark’s show. They really are one of the best live acts and surely one of my favorite rock bands over the course of the last few years. Even though I didn’t get to hear a few of my personal favorite Clarks songs, and I had to suffer through the Damnwells, it was overall a very enjoyable experience. I will surely check out the Clarks the next time I have the chance. For anyone else that would like to check out the Clarks and maybe listen to a few song clips or read up on the band, their official website is www.clarksonline.com. Rock on!