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02/02/01 - El Rey Theatre
The Phantom of the Concert by Lauren Choplin (Staff Writer - USC)

Concert: Fairview, Rooney, Kara's Flowers perform, but Phantom Planet stands out

     Disappointed fans were left stranded outside the El Rey Theatre on Friday, as some of the city's best local bands led by the insanely addictive Phantom Planet sold out the 850-capacity venue.
     Although Los Angeles is undeniably huge, the music scene is closely connected. It's no surprise, then, that the flourishing result of such camaraderie is a huge, exciting show that gained momentum with each band.
     Fairview, who opened relatively early, played heavy, throbbing pop that was considerably formulaic, but no less inspired, and "Henry," one of the band's more memorable songs, exploded through the air with chaotic, rolling energy. As a whole, Fairview was very well received by the still-forming crowd. If common sense didn't indicate otherwise, however, the strobe lights frequently utilized under the pretense of creating "mood" might have been mistaken for the signs of an impending alien abduction. In fact, the Radiohead-esque lights eventually became so annoying that a number of people actually covered their eyes. Despite the overwhelming barrage of lackluster effects, Fairview's set was a mildly interesting display of hot-blooded, drowsy rock, but the more exciting part was still to come.
     The five-piece Rooney, with its crackling mix of garage rock and bubblegum pop, brought an entirely different and charmingly aggressive energy to the stage. The band members are relatively young, and they're not trying to hide it. The band is named after Ferris Bueller's archenemy. In a more flippant disply of 80s nostalgia, guitarist Taylor Locke bravely donned a New Kids On The Block t-shirt. The band oozed with crunchy melodic vitality, effectively displayed in such songs as "Turn Away," from their Deli Meats EP, and "It Goes To Bed," one of the set's two debuts. Rooney's sleek, mechanical pop-rock is refreshingly serious; its flair for melancholy glamour provides a mysterious edge that perfectly manifests itself in a live setting.
     Kara's Flowers, who have a reputation for being one of the most original, dynamic live bands in the area, don't disappoint, but the set wasn't necessarily one of their best. They have an uncanny ability to excite even the most indifferent concert-goer, and the band's sensual splashes of slink R&B and liquified pop are exhilarating and unusual, especially since they used to sound like Weezer a few years ago. The addition of two back-up singers, two girls who danced a lot but barely sang seemed trite and unnecessary; they sound better as a simple foursome. From "Ragdoll" to "Woman," Kara's Flowers incited more head-bopping than any band of the night. And, since most L.A. crowds seem to be pretty sedated, that's quite an accomplishment.
     Phantom Planet, assaulting the eagar crowd with an aggressively melodic set, ended the night with a blast of old-fashioned rock energies. The band, currently in the process of recording its much-anticipated second album, opened with "Anthem," a stunning, sparkling rock balland about uniting the world with song, setting the tone for a show which would do just that. Alex Greenwald has a voice like melted chocolate, a powerful deluge of melody that never fails to impress, and the crowning glory of a band that isn't afraid to rock with intellignece and power. When the show becomes too easy and comfortable, Phantom Planet mixes something new into its crisp, churning melodic rock, such as guitarist Darren Robinson's delightfully frightening between-song rapping.
     In a decision perhaps indicative of the band's desire to plunge into new material, Phantom Planet played only two previously released songs, choosing to instead shower the audience with more recent favorites like the loopy, radiant "Lonely Day" and the achingly wistful "California." All in all, the set exploded with insane, playful energy, but maintained a captivating sincerity that's no doubt the result of the band's virtually incessant performing and songwriting. Phantom Planet clearly wants to rock, but would like to do it with feeling and intelligence. Friday was a night for the relatively young and undeniably passionate. Those left outside definitely missed a lot, because these bands are going to be big.