Troubadour - June 3, 2006
Live Review by Adam McKibbin
The way that folks talk about Liars, you’d never guess that the closest they’d get to a true homecoming show wouldn’t be in NYC or Berlin—the cities that have hosted the band as they’ve embarked upon their slim but spectacular and spectacularly varied discography—but in Los Angeles. Indeed, Julian Gross and Aaron Hemphill are expat Angelenos (singer Angus Andrew is Australian), and their families braved a sold-out crowd, a madcap opening band, and some intense volume at the Troubadour in order to show their support. You don’t have to be related to a band member, though, in order to love the Liars unconditionally. When they are at their best—on album or in person—they are flat-out one of the most exciting bands in all of music.
The live show is a percussionist's wet dream, as Gross and Hemphill both wail on drum sets, with Gross providing the full stomp and thrash while Hemphill chimes in with more technical flourishes; both at times looked like they were going to literally pound their equipment apart. Gross, an affable interview guest on The Red Alert earlier in the year, doesn't buy into the idea that drummers are better heard from than seen - although he started the set in a raincoat, he was hard to miss by the end, by which point he'd revealed a glamorous dress underneath (this is a pretty routine wardrobe choice - it wasn't mere shock value for his parents). For people who have egos and no previous alliances to an instrument, it's usually pretty typical to come away from a great rock show wanting to be the singer; it's no offense to Andrew, who is plenty magnetic, to say that you leave a Liars show wanting to be a drummer. The latest album, after all, is called Drum's Not Dead, and tracks like "A Visit From Drum" harness a seemingly completely incongruous set of traits: soothing but sporadically abrasive, primal but technology-happy, etc.
The tradeoff for the flashes of triumph is the occasional rut; there was some avant-bloat to the set, some sections that felt extraneous. A related disappointment was the banishment of slower curveballs like "Drum Gets a Glimpse" and "The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack" from the setlist. Also, it's worth daydreaming for a moment of the perfect world that would allow the band to incorporate some of the accompanying visuals that appear on the Drum's Not Dead DVD - which really are a listening enhancement.
D.C. indie-punksters/pranksters The Apes are a natural fit on a bill with Liars, and a very game warmup act. The two bands have played together in the past, and clearly enjoy each other's company and aesthetic. The Apes are more willfully weird and put on an energetic set that was determined to spread good cheer. Breck Brunson, the band's third vocalist, strutted around the stage like a bizarro-world Mick Jagger, posing with hand on hip while Amanda Kleinman proved that an organ is plenty capable of having balls. Jeff Schmid, though, set the tone early on: this night belonged to the drum. Our eardrums were no match.
Liars - Interview 
Liars - Interview 
Liars - Sisterworld
Apes - Ghost Games
More by this writer:
The Coup - Pick a Bigger Weapon
Girl Talk - Night Ripper
Lupe Fiasco - The Cool
Ellen Allien - Boogybytes Vol. 04