The Mohawk’s multi-level outdoor deck was the venue for a few hours of guitar pop on Friday. October 17th, as New Roman Times and then the Jealous Girlfriends opened for the Wedding Present in Austin.
Brooklyn’s Jealous Girlfriends play pop and rock songs with elements of new wave, as is popular these days. They played like a band that’s been on the road: always tight, keeping a brisk pace, and covering for bandmates’ instrument changes. The rhythm section was strong overall, with Alex Lipsen’s changes from bass guitar to synth bass usually joined by aggressive kick action from drummer Mike Fadem, keeping the low end textured.
But the band is not versatile. Fadem played a stutter-step rhythm on the fourth song, but its agility wasn’t matched by the plodding keyboards. Things improved when he switched to a shuffle a couple verses later. They tried a spacey guitar jam on their fifth song that was not very interesting, but they followed that up with a strong reading of “How Now,” a straight-ahead rocker that features their best hook.
After “How Now,” the band branched out again. Song seven was a soul number, and guitarist Holly Miranda sang well enough. But she joined Lipsen at the keyboards, and together they sounded more like “Chopsticks” than like Art Neville. Their next song had funk verses, which benefitted from Fadem’s crisp-sounding kit. Although the guitars didn’t hold up their end of the bargain, with Miranda playing aimless leads on her blue Telecaster over Josh Abbott’s basic Strat rhythm, the whole band – especially the keyboards – played with agility and dynamics, showing the kind of touch they were missing most of the night.
If the Girlfriends sounded like a band that’s toured plenty, the Wedding Present played like a band that’s been touring forever. David Gedge led his group through a long set of energetic guitar pop that showed not only tightness and melodic talent, but a seemingly endless arsenal of tricks. And for a mostly rhythm player who not only wears a sweater but keeps it on, Gedge cuts a dynamic figure on stage. His bandmates were equally energetic.
Gedge writes great guitar harmonies, and accordingly, his lesser songs have the band sitting on one chord for entire verses or choruses. When they play out, they’re great. He’s also a competent and humble singer. “This one’s a duet, thank God” isn’t a bad way to introduce a song, especially if it’s a good one.
Several Wedding Present songs featured cool trick endings. A hooky major-key tune might finish on a strange dissonance, or a hard-charging power-pop song would end on the four instead of the usual one. The rhythm section, skilled at major changes mid-song, could also switch to a totally different, high-hat-heavy meter just for the last bar. They used their best gimmick twice: after Gedge sang the entire song, bassist Terry de Castro stepped up to her mic to sing the final line.
Metal FM made for a refreshing car ride home. After a few hours of guitar pop, few things are more pleasant than hearing the late-night DJ indulge a caller’s request for “something hard and heavy,” dedicated to “Shawna, that bitch.”