What is a reasonable expectation for performance time for a live show? When there are many, many acts (such as at a music festival or a larger DIY show), it is perhaps forgivable for an artist to perform less than half an hour of material. However, does the audience have the right to feel short-changed by a headliner when the two opening acts both performed for nearly an hour each and then the lead act occupies the stage for well shy of half an hour? If you had to wait longer between the final opener and the headliner while the band set up than they actually played, is it alright to feel like you didn't get your money's worth from the act. That is the key question to arise after Frankie Rose's set at the Knitting Factory last night in Brooklyn. Had it not been for the two rock solid performances from openers Night Manager and Beach Fossil side-project Dive, the crowd would have left the venue in an even more sour mood than they already did.
Night Manager started out the evening and were easily the most impressive act of the night. Combining a riot grrrl aesthetic (at least for lead singer Caitlin Seager) with a speedy and loud amalgam of surf-rock and shoegaze layers of noise, Night Manager brought an infectious level of energy to their performance. Whether it was guitarist David Tassy owning the stage with his guitar theatrics or the other lead guitarist Ezana Edwards wowing the audience with his hook-laden guitar riffs, the entire performance was a prime example of how an opener can steal the show from the headliner. Caitlin Seager danced around the stage like Cults' Madeline Follin and although the mixing was making it difficult to hear her vocals, when she did shine through, she sounded great. Without wanting to distract from the music, Caitlin Seager has the stage presence (and knockout looks) to be a visible spokeswoman for the growing DIY Broooklyn scene, and she has a hell of a band backing her up.
Dive was essentially just as impressive and while they may not have had the magnetism of Night Manager, they made up for it with sheer energy. The side project of Cole Smith of Beach Fossils, Dive takes the slickpop that is all the rage right now and cranks the intensity up to about 11 while adding even more noticeable psychedelia than the already swirling guitars of Beach Fossils. Cole (as well as a former member of Smith Westerns, Colby Hewitt) and the other guitarist flung themselves around the stage while showing that slickpop hasn't run its course yet. There were even some electronic interludes as well. If Real Estate is leading the pack of breezy, direct slickpop, Dive is their far more energetic cousin who were taking all the good drugs before their set began. Also, any band that chooses to counter-balance their almost moshing two lead guitarists with a cross-dressing shoegaze bassist gets automatic cred points.
The two openers set a pretty high bar for Frankie Rose to fill, and after waiting well over half an hour for her to take the stage after Dive left, the audience was getting very restless for this former Vivian Girls member to perform. Even before her set was unceremoniously truncated, the crowd was having difficulty adjusting to the very chill and relaxing nature of the music from her latest LP, Interstellar, which evokes a very nostalgic take on 80s post-punk, particularly Disintegration-era The Cure. The band had almost no stage presence and while the album is good and well crafted and the group showed competency performing these numbers live (though it lacked the details and textures of the album), they never seem committed to the performance and subsequently the audience never really got involved, even on obvious singles like "Gospel/Grace" or "Night Swim". When Frankie Rose left the stage after only a little over 20 minutes, the audience thought they were being pranked until she came out for her encore which was exactly one song. There was almost no applause at the end of the set because everyone at the show felt ripped off. So, if you're ever thinking about catching Frankie Rose's act, be warned that you may blink and miss her.
Here's a bit of Ms. Rose performing with her old band, The Outs.