RX Bandits - Culture Room, Fort Lauderdale - July 14
Ten years ago, Rx Bandits released The Resignation, its fourth studio album -- a beacon in the ever revolving door of band members and ever evolving sound.
Last night, Culture Room brought the act to Fort Lauderdale, along with a show that your high school self, and maybe even your late-twenties self, would be giddy about. Rx Bandits powered through nearly three hours of tunes, spanning their entire career, in celebration of the tenth anniversary of their 2003 album.
A group of dudes by the name Northern Faces, who, according to the lead singer of the band, have only been a thing for about a year and already have MTVU video airtime to show for it. Hailing from New York, Northern Faces felt forced upon the post pop-punk crowd inside the venue. Those appearing thoroughly into it also seemed to be thoroughly stuck in a bygone era of power chords calling on hope for the easily brokenhearted.
Technically, the band sounded great, and seemed to work well together, but it mostly amounted to something underwhelming -- lyrics reminiscent of things Rx Bandits fans would be hard pressed to relate to anymore. Though interesting enough to listen to, its sound was easily dismissible in a world where music has evolved in ways that make Northern Faces look like training wheels for sonic "tween" skater kids and college freshmen brought up on shows like Laguna Beach.
Northern Faces, though, was no indication of the night ahead. Rx Bandits got to the bottom of things after about fifteen minutes of stage and sound set up. If one thing was for sure, the band's sound is in classic balance, leaving room for alternating riffs between guitarists Steven Choi and founding member Matt Embree, neither of whom seem to have aged a minute since the days of Progress when the group played places like the Factory.
Rx Bandits moved seamlessly through a set that cut straight to the heart of that pop-punk energy inside of all of us (dormant or not) forcing hands up into the air in melodic sing-along. It even prompted a friendly reminder of what dancing is from Embree, as two party poopers in the crowd were called out for mistaking moshing for dancing. "Be cool or please go away," Embree requested.
The band was fully equipped with the trusty saxophone and trombone that helped define their sound from the beginning, but this time around, Rx Bandits brought a more mature and formulated vibe. The brass filled out the sound, instead of standing on its own as it did on previous records and tours. Embree was masterful, moving with ease across his fret board and pedal board alike. He didn't stand still for long, but when he did it was two seconds at a time, in consideration of the next modification or setting on any of what looked like eight pedals in front of him.
Joseph Troy and Christopher Tsagakis seem inseparable on stage as Troy hung back often to keep Tsagakis company, encouraging him, and generally just bopping along to his animalistic form of beat keeping. Tsagakis literally looked like he was driving some sort of vessel behind the standard kit paired next to an electronic percussion set up. He toyed around with some effects, but didn't get too far.
If nothing else, that is something the older members of the audience could definitely dig. Rx Bandits doesn't bring a terribly complicated sound, though it does offer talented and effective musicians. Back in full swing, one could hope that its sound evolves into a more experimental one, as the band confidently checks "ska" and "pop punk" off of their list of accomplished sounds. And with a ten minute version of "Only for the Night," as the set's encore, it seemed as though "jam" or "funk" might be next to be crossed off that list.
Not the same band you knew in high school, Rx Bandits still has the same energy with the added experience and skill appropriate to a band that has been tweaking their sound since the mid-nineties. No matter what direction they take to next, the band, continues to stand their ground and do so with confidence and intrigue.