I went to this show with a lot of preconceived notions about this band based on their press and television appearances, and was completely ready and willing to dismiss them as a bunch of immature, pretentious, young British snots. After winning both "Best New Band" and "Best British Band" at the 2006 NME, and then being touted at SXSW as leading the next British Invasion, only to see them trash the SXSW 2006 critics, and then later their amps on their SNL appearance, I was afraid I was being led down the garden path again, a la Spacehog and The Stone Roses.
Let's get something straight. The Arctic Monkeys are not bigger than Jesus, nor are they bigger than the The Beatles, and they aren't better than Oasis, at least in terms of musicianship. What they are, however, is a young, fresh, raw, talented band with a distinctive sound. Given time, they'll likely produce some really neat material. Lead vocalist Alex Turner has a voice that is unmistakeable in a way similar to, say, Stan Ridgway or Richard Butler, and it clearly helps this band distiguish themselves from the great grey cloud of other U.K. bands clawing for U.S. airplay.
I don't expect the Arctic Monkeys to produce an intricately worked masterpeice with "Dark Side of the Moon" longevity, nor do I see them producing any massive anthems of teen angst or tomes of deep political thought. With songs like "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor," I expect them to make good, fun, party music that a lot of people enjoy, and see a career similar to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
This power pop foursome has been unfortunately and unfairly saddled with the label of being the "next big thing" from the U.K. to invade North America, and the monstrous P.R. machine behind that promotion was very much in evidence at Stubbs (even though it somehow missed us when handing out camera passes). That is an enormous amount of pressure for a bunch of literal 20 year olds in their first band to expect to live up to, and it's pretty obvious that the band is uncomfortable with all the hype.
Aside from that, it was only the 100+ heat, the sold out crowd, and the long lines at the beer stands that made the audience at the show uncomfortable. All of that was forgotten when the band took the stage. Looking every bit like a high school garage band, these guys blasted through a short set of only about an hour. Simulcast on KROX 101X, the band had a very smooth mix from the sound board and did not sound much different than they do on disc. Very twangy, jerky and poppy, in a White Stripes-meets-Mersey-tone, they ripped through essentially everything on their only album and their EP, stopping occasionally to banter with a woman in the audience requesting they remove first their pants, then their shoes. All I can say is that at least she didn't request "Free Bird." I really like this band and would pay to see them perform again when they have more material. It would be a shame to see this bands rough edges sanded off by some slick producer, or to see them succumb to the hype that preceeds them.
Opening for the Arctic Monkeys was the California band We Are Scientists with about a 30 minute set. This is another good band but unfortunately I wasn't familiar at all with their music. They have a good sound and are very much a college band, with a substantial Austin audience that germinated with their 2005 SXSW performance where they were labeled as one of the "Must See Unsigned Bands."