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Friday night I went to the Crocodile Cafe to see Imperial Teen, with Bella and Derby opening. Imperial Teen are not a band I know very well - like Blonde Redhead who I saw back in April, they're a band whose songs make me say "wait, who does this again? oh yes, this is Imperial Teen." However, KEXP has been playing several catchy songs off their latest album, The Hair the TV the Baby & the Band, and I decided it was time to check them out live.

First up was Derby, a quartet with guitar/lead vocals, guitar/backup vocals/keyboard, bass, and drums. (Their website indicates the band is a trio, so apparently the bassist was a guest musician.) They played mid-to-uptempo rock falling in the general, somewhat nondescript category of post-punk "alternative pop/rock" style. The lead singer's voice sounded something like Pete Townshend to me, and the songs made me think of Nick Lowe or perhaps early Elvis Costello. (Despite these British references, the band is from Portland, OR.) The band had a good solid sound, but none of their songs really made my ears perk up. They're definitely worth checking out, but I'd like to hear them develop their sound a little more - I'm not sure how exactly, but they need something a bit grabbier.

Bella are a trio on keyboards/vocals (female), guitar/bass/vocals (male), and drums/guitar/vocals (female); drum samples filled in when the drummer switched to guitar for the last couple songs. The keyboardist sang lead on most songs, but the guitarist took lead for a song and when the drummer switched to guitar she also sang lead. All three members were capable vocalists and the songs featured some sweet harmonies. Bella played generally upbeat but sometimes wistful-sounding indie pop that had a certain mid-80s sensibility to it; I could imagine them appearing on the soundtrack to a John Hughes film. The band had some sound troubles during the show, and their performance occasionally felt a bit rough, though that could be excused as they'd just returned from NYC that morning. My impression overall was that they're still developing, but I really enjoyed their sound and I think they're very promising. I bought their latest CD, No One Will Know, which just came out this past week, and it has a very polished sound. I'll definitely be watching out for Bella in the future.

Imperial Teen are the quartet of Will Schwartz (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Roddy Bottum (guitar, vocals, keyboards), Jone Stebbins (bass, vocals), and Lynn Truell (drums, vocals, guitar). Although Schwartz is the primary vocalist, some songs featured Bottum on lead, a couple featured Truell, and they all sang harmony on pretty much every song. Like Bella, they played upbeat indie pop, though more of the 90s style (when the band formed) than the 80s - the two bands that came to my mind were Ivy and Papas Fritas, although those are not the best comparisons. They played a fairly even mix of new and old songs, and to my surprise I recognized more of the old ones than I expected. Early on they played "Ivanka" from their previous album On, which is the song by them I know best and features the band trading off lead vocals. Truell switched from drums to bass for a couple songs, including "Yoo Hoo" from their second album, and current single "Shim Sham", on which she sings lead vocals. Bottum took over drums for those songs and Stebbins went to guitar. The audience had a great time at the show, roaring with approval whenever an older song was played and cheering appreciatively for the new songs as well. I enjoyed their set too, but not as much as the fans who knew the material, and I was left with the feeling that having just one of their albums - or perhaps a greatest hits compilation, if they had one - would satisfy me. I did pick up The Hair the TV the Baby & the Band, and I'll see how much it grows on me; perhaps I'll find myself interested in more from them after all.

It only occurred to me after Derby's set that hey, I had a phone with a camera now, I should try taking some pictures of the bands. I think they came out pretty well; apparently stage lighting is sufficient for the iPhone to get decent photos. Since the concert review is already plenty long (and since I already did a photo-heavy post earlier today), I'll put these photos on the separate post page. Here's Bella, with Cameron on guitar, Tiffany in back on drums, and Charla on keyboards:
and another one with Tiffany up front playing guitar:
Bella - drummerless

And here's Imperial Teen, one with Schwartz playing keyboards:
Imperial Teen - Will on keyboards
and one with Truell up front on bass, Stebbins off to the left on guitar, and Bottum in back on drums:
Imperial Teen - drummer switch

Coming up: They Might Be Giants at The Moore Theatre this Wednesday, and Kinski's CD release party at the Crocodile Cafe this Thursday. Next month, the High Violets are opening for Ulrich Schnauss at the Crocodile on Monday the 1st, Do Make Say Think are headlining the Crocodile on the 31st, Interpol are at the WaMu Theater in the middle of the month on the 18th (although at $27.50 + TicketMaster fees, I'll probably pass), and I haven't even looked at the calendar listings to see what else is happening in October. Exciting stuff!

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