Reviewed by Brett Thorne.
Steve Nash. Lisztomania. Joaquin. Yep, the word “Phoenix” had a lot going for it. Then some former Abercrombie models had to go and ruin everything by opening a venue in Austin with the same name. Calling it a venue might be a bit generous. And for reasons that are beyond me, Miami Horror, one of the most hyped products of Australia since Crocodile Dundee, decided to play a show there.
Getting held up at the door for half an hour because, conceivably, the door guy could tell I haven’t been to a mall in two years, is something I can deal with. Getting the stink-eye from the trust-fund “Daddy-took-away-my-Lambourghini-so-now-I-have-to-drive-the-Porsche-I’ll-never-forgive-him-for-this” crowd is pretty bad. Going to a show that is two hours behind schedule is tough to forgive.
To put it one way, the night started off as a Phoenix Horror.
Things picked up a bit when The D.A. took the stage around midnight. They sported some pretty typical dance-rock with vocals that hinted at a Modest Mouse influence. I’d be interested to hear recorded material from these guys but good luck. A Google search of these dude’s band name returns only an IMDB page for a ’70s flick about “hard-nosed Los Angeles district attorney Paul Ryan” and a bunch of places to buy The Da Vinci Code.
French Horn Rebellion was utterly forgettable. I’m not sure if I should hold that against them or just chalk that up to my disgust with the venue. The duo played a DJ set augmented by the occasional live guitar or horn. I would have loved to hear a live set from these guys, as their recorded material is pretty enjoyable. The band didn’t fail for lack of trying though. The dudes climbed all over the stage and did their best to work the crowd.
|French Horn Rebellion|
After teasing the audience for what seemed like an hour, sound checking their equipment, walking off stage, walking back on and adjusting knobs then walking off again, Miami Horror finally started playing at 2 a.m. Moriarty walked up to the mic and mumbled something about this place “sucks. We’re not going to play here again. But we’re here so let’s make the best of it.”
And make the best of it they did.
The first few notes of “Don’t Be On With Her” served as a sort of atonement for everything The Phoenix did wrong that night. By the time Moriarty’s solo came up halfway through the song, I had danced away most of my rage (I’ve still got a little vendetta against the Fox network for canceling Arrested Development, but some wounds only heal with time).
The man behind the music responsible for more shimmies and fist-pumps than an episode of Jersey Shore, Benjamin Plant, rarely moved from his spot on the back edge of the stage. Not only did he not sing or wear a cat suit or smash his bass on the stage and light it on fire or employ any of the other attention-grabbing tricks favored by many, if you blinked, you could have missed him.
The lack of rock star stage persona could have been from a genuine disinterest in the usual stage theatrics that his band mates (mostly guitarist and vocalist Josh Moriarty, who grinded on his axe and urged the crowd to sing along with every word) like to utilize, or it could stem from the fact that The Phoenix is the most horrible place on Earth.
Earlier in the night, Plant—Horror’s producer and primary songwriter—expressed some concern that many of his band’s fans were leaving the venue early because the show was running so far behind. At the rate things were moving, Miami Horror’s set time was going to end up conflicting with ACL. Based on a few glances throughout the night, Plant’s concerns were misplaced. The venue was packed and nearly everyone was moving along with the music.
The highlight of the night was “Make You Mine.” The bouncy bass line and sleek guitar were met with the loudest cheers of the night and some of the most earnest dancing. I was a little disappointed that the band didn’t play “Holiday” from their latest album, Illumination. But I was also just relieved that I finally got to see these guys and they were as good as I could have hoped. I don’t usually identify myself with the night club or electronic dance scene, but Miami Horror’s brand of dance has an edge to it that is as accessible to a ratty kid wearing cut-offs and sipping a beer as it is to a girl in a Prada dress with a cosmopolitan raised in the air. So I danced alongside the Prada girls and fist-pumped with the Burberry bros.
It’s a pretty brilliant racket The Phoenix has set up. The club provides its patrons with a literal glimpse at one of the inner rings of hell, and when the poor soul runs to the bar to extinguish the misery in which they now find themselves knee-deep, they are forced to wonder whether paying $5 for a Shiner might actually be worse than experiencing the whole thing sober. A psychological test on par with anything as dastardly as anything the Jigsaw Killer could have come up with.
I chose the Shiner. The cold drink did the trick pretty well. However, had I just waited for Miami Horror to take the stage, I could have gotten the same effect and not had to shell out $15 to a place I hope goes out of business tomorrow.