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On Saturday February 26, I was thrilled to be at the Columbia City Theater for the release of Hotels' latest album, On the Casino Floor. Opening for the boys were the Devil Whale and the Royal Bear. I'd never been to the Columbia City Theater before and it turned out to be a perfect venue for the casino-themed evening, as the renovated vaudeville-era theater provided a classy and beautiful backdrop. A fair amount of people got the word too to dress up in casino finery for the occasion, and the band had lovely assistants staffing the merchandise and baked-goods(!) tables; the merchandise table included a roulette wheel offering people a chance to win the new album and other Hotels swag.

The Devil Whale played a toe-tapping set of pop rock a bit on the rootsy/folk side. Although not really grabbing me, I thought they were pretty good. The Royal Bear were more my style with their harder dark-edged rock, more like Interpol. I enjoyed them enough to pick up their album after the show, and I'll keep an ear out for them. 

Hotels pulled out the stops for this show, dressing up in costume as the various characters featured on the cover of On the Casino Floor, and inviting several guests to join them in miming the action of the concept album. These guests included former drummer Max Wood throughout the show, on percussion for most and drums for the encore songs; Kim Miller from Mono in VCF on vocals during the first half; Gabe Mintz on guitar for the first half; and Joshua Monuteaux on bass for a couple songs. Additionally, burlesque dancer LuLu Bell performed during three of the songs and walked through the crowd cigarette-girl style earlier in the evening, offering the album for sale. One funny note on the costuming: I kept thinking that lead singer/bassist Blake Madden, dressed in a white tuxedo as "secret agent Smith", looked like he owned the place, and I finally realized that was because he was reminding me of Rick from Casablanca. 

Hotels played the whole album through, although if I haven't mis-remembered they switched the order a bit by opening with the title track, and then played "Port of Saints" and "Atlantic" from their previous two albums for the encore. I spent most of the show right at the stage front, but moved back to mid-room for the last few songs as there was more space to dance. I thought the sound unfortunately was muddled at mid-room, missing the crisp guitar on "Port of Saints" and bright keys on "Atlantic", and hoped it wasn't like that throughout their set. Otherwise though they sounded great, and the added musicians and parts helped to show how these new songs are more musically complex and ambitious. I've been enjoying some of the new songs live for the past year or more, and I'm thrilled that they're finally out on CD, but I'm also already excitedly looking forward to what comes next.

I was hoping for better photos than what I got stage-side, but still, I've got a small set up on Flickr.


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