Team Robespierre, Smart Growth @ the Ottobar

Fresh off a deliciously vintage early generation Creative Nomad audio player (Creative bought Rio, one of the pioneers making the first generation of portable MP3 players back in the mid-90s), Jeff the Baltimore Taper serves up some sweet sweet audio from the openers of the Teenagers-headlined bill at the Ottobar this week.  All photos: Victor Will

For Team Robespierre, go here.

For Smart Growth, go here.

Some context/set-up from Jeff:

I get to the Ottobar and turns out the promoter specifically said that I could not tape Team Robespierre or The Teenagers. Guy at the door says as soon as Smart Growth is done, I have to break down my stuff and leave (doesn’t say I have to take my gear to my car, says I have to leave…granted I was on the guest list for Smart Growth so I didn’t pay).

During Smart Growth’s set, I found one of the guys in the band and asked about taping…he was all for it. He had no idea the promoter told the venue no taping, but he let the guy at the door know it was cool.

I’m glad. Kick ass set by Team Robespierre! After the second song, three of the members moved to the floor and left the drummer on stage alone. Small crowd, but most of the people were into it. I really enjoyed their set at the Talking Head back in March and this set was even better. Very high energy band. I wanted to buy a shirt, but they didn’t have XXL (I’m amazed that so few bands carry XXL shirts considering obesity in this country), so I bought their cd instead.

While Team Robespierre was awesome, I came for Smart Growth who played first. Smart Growth is Denny Bowen, former guitarist for Yukon and current drummer for Baltimore’s Double Dagger. This was my third time
seeing Smart Growth, and it was easily the best set to date. Setlist was spiced up with the addition of two
songs, “Immigration Reform” and “Too Fucking Cool.” Best version of “Rick Weaver II” I’ve heard yet.

Brian Daniloski ran sound for this show. As always, he did a fantastic job, especially with the Smart Growth
set. On a side note, Brian plays solo guitar and effects as Darsombra (fantastic!).

Some reviewage from Alex, who caught Team Robespierre’s set:

Team Robespierre- a great live act by reputation, but perhaps only under very specific conditions- a packed room, the right level of intoxicants in the audience’s bloodstream, and that I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude shared by both the band and the audience. Team Robespierre held up their end of the bargain, mostly, but a lot of factors were beyond their control. It’s hard to start a party as an opener at 10 pm on a Tuesday night with a crowd of about 10.

I got out of work later than I had expected, so I missed Smart Growth. Jeff has been kind enough to provide an intro, in addition to his recordings. I also had to be up very early the next morning, so I headed out before Teenagers took the stage. I honestly do not regret that decision.

The sound check took longer than expected. The band seemed a little out of sorts. There were only four members onstage, not the usual five. The bass player took up a position down on the floor, among the audience. The set got underway.

Musically Team Robespierre isn’t breaking down any doors, but that’s ok. They fit comfortably into that lo-fi electronic/punk freak-the-fuck-out party time niche. Though the show on Tuesday exposed the weaknesses of sticking to such a convention-based style. Some of these the band readily admitted on stage (or to be more accurate, from the floor). They said they were much more used to really small spaces, rather than clubs. They didn’t know what to do with empty rooms. Unless you have sweaty, moving bodies pressed up against you, their music doesn’t really work the same way. I also suspect that in a city with no shortage of indie electronic bands with punk ethos and killer live shows, Team Robespierre may come off as a cliché. Why would Baltimore root for Team Robespierre, when we have Team Wham?

Team Robespierre relied heavily on prerecords. This may have been due to the absence of a band member, or not. Perhaps it was intentionally meant to question the meaning of a live performance? By the end of the set all remaining members, save for the drummer, and were on the floor interacting with the crowd, or to be more precise, the small cluster of people. Emily Rabbit’s endearing enthusiasm, and effort to push people as close as possible to the band actually got me more into the music.

All set the band apologized for, as they put it, “sucking at singing.” Finally, after the last song it was revealed that their lead singer was out-of-pocket for the time being. No further explanation was offered.

I liked their set, but the fact that Team Robespierre had some kind of major drama on the road, and continued putting on solid performances without missing a beat causes me to hold them in higher esteem than mere party starters from Brooklyn.

Team Robespierre

The Teenagers

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