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August 13, 2007

Rx Bandits; Orangevale, CA; 8.12.07

When Drive-Thru Records was in its prime (from my viewpoint, this is easily the years of 2001-2003), their roster of artists was the backbone of my music taste. Though a lot of the bands signed to the label were of the pop-punk variety, Rx Bandits stood out as one of the differing sounds: they are, rather, a wonderful melding of ska, rock and reggae.

I can't even tell you the last time I saw these guys live, but it was far too long ago. So when I saw they were coming to my favorite local venue, The Boardwalk, it was hard to pass up. Admittedly, the place is nothing special, but I used to go to shows there practically every weekend and, you know, emotional attachment and all. It still thrills me to no end when an artist I really enjoy plays there, such as the Bandits.


8The first opener was a group called Maps and Atlases. I had never heard their music but word of mouth was that they were pretty good. However, to my disappointment, they didn't do it for me at all. They are definitely unique; I enjoyed that they had a xylophone (my kind of instrument!) It's something you don't see very often. Since I am not one to write a band off right away, upon getting home from the show I checked out some of their songs and found I liked them better recorded than I did live.

Performance-wise, my problem with them was not necessarily their sound, but that I didn't feel they had completely gelled together as a live band. Maybe I'm off my rocker, or perhaps it was a venue thing; for that reason I would be willing to see them again in the future. Plus, I find their website so damn adorable that it's difficult to harbor any ill feelings.

On their Myspace, they describe themselves as offering songs that "wrestle themselves from flailing, algebraic fits of spazzy guitar notes and drum ruptures to lulling, voice-driven melodies that speak stories using lyrical images strung together like soup cans chasing a Cadillac." I love this so much that I will not even attempt to provide my own description of their music as...that is actually 100% accurate, strange as it may seem.

Tracks such as "The Ongoing Horrible" and "Big Bopper Anthems" have endearing melodies, and lead singer Dave Davison has a very interesting voice that makes you take notice. While they may not be my cup of tea, if you like progressive, experimental music (and these guys do it with a pop-rock-reggae twist), I would point you in Maps and Atlases' direction.

Next on stage was The Fall of Troy. Wow. Well, I'll say up front that screamo isn't exactly my favorite type of music to listen to or see live. (Sidenote: that is probably not the most apt description of their sound -- they do fall along the lines of prog rock/experimental as well, and apparently are also classified as mathcore, which I must say is a term I hadn't heard before. Guess you do learn something new every day. Mathcore, by the way, is "a style of metalcore recognized for a high level of technical musicianship." So...make of that what you will.) I give them credit, though, because they are high-energy and put on a wild show. The crowd loved them. If you like to go to a show and jump in the pit, this band's music will easily encourage you to do just that.

While the vocals -- err, alright, mostly screaming -- was not something I enjoyed having piercing through my ears, I was pleasantly surprised by a lot of things. Musically, these guys? Are really quite good. There were some great guitar rifts and melodies packed into their songs. And, okay: their intro music included the song Gene Wilder sings as Willy Wonka while they are traveling by boat on the chocolate river, through the tunnel to get to the candy factory (I know something is probably off about that; it's been a while since I've seen the movie.) Awesome, right? Right.

The highlight of Fall of Troy's set for me was one very surprising moment. After the second song, there was a brief pause before I heard the opening chords to Brand New's song "Okay, I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don't." I have to tell you, for me that came out of left field. I love Brand New, and that is one of my favorite songs of theirs, so I was initially a little mortified it was going to be massacred. Thankfully, it wasn't -- in fact, though lead singer/guitarist Thomas Erak only played the first verse, he sang it pretty well and did it justice.

Finally, we got to our headliner, the Rx Bandits. The band kicked off their set with "Decrescendo," off their album The Resignation. The audience quickly came alive, clapping and dancing enthusiastically along with the music. The song was a great way to begin, especially as it lends itself to a sing-a-long at the breakdown, along to the first few lines of the chorus: "Did you get what you wanted? / Did you take what you needed from me / This is all that I'm asking..."


Early on in the set was one of my personal favorites, "Consequential Apathy." I wasn't expecting to hear it as it's on the Bandits' 2001 release, Progress. However, it sounded great as ever. It's recognizable with its bass opening, leading into drum accompaniment, then the addition of vocals, and finally guitar and horns. What really has always attracted me to this song are the lyrics; lead singer Matt Embree has a special talent in songwriting. It's the simple ending of "Go, create" that I find most inspiring in its very simple but motivating message.

Most of the set consisted of songs from the Bandits' most recent album, ...And the Battle Begun. One of the best was the track "One Million Miles An Hour, Fast Asleep." This is a fast-paced number with a continuing guitar riff I absolutely love. Near the ending it is taken down a few notches, concentrating more on drums and trombone, and vocally what comes out during this part are some fantastic harmonies.

"Only for the Night," one of my favorite tracks from the aforementioned new release, was another highlight. Embree especially sounds superb - while he often has a strong, more throaty sound to his voice, it is wonderfully smooth here. The vocals glide over the music beautifully.



What I really love and appreciate about this band is their passion for being on stage and performing. They have a tight live sound and put a lot of effort into giving a great show; however, despite that concentration, there is no doubt as to how much fun they're having up there. Always all smiles, they make sure to get crowd participation and often encourage everyone to sing and dance even more.

The set closed with "To Our Unborn Daughters," which is nothing short of an amazing song. The lyrics are some of Embree's best. As the title suggests, it is a message to young girls (and easily applicable to women of all other ages as well) about overcoming the stereotypes usually assigned to women. As an example, some of the words are: "Don't you ever be afraid of all your beauty / you can move without his words / or a grant of submission / oh, they try to smother, your righteous ambition / and stifle your loving grace / they tell you it's a little girls place, to alter your convictions / no, don't you wait..."

The huge guitar solo, followed by the almost whisper "You can never steal our love, oh no..." made this song the perfect way to cap off a high-energy, fun set by the Bandits on a slightly different and touching note. These guys never disappoint live and I am so glad to have been able to catch them again.

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nice review! sounds like a fun show. i'll check these guys out from your recommendation.


Love it!!! Another great review, Taylore!


wow, I almost forgot about those guys! I used to be a big DTR fan as well. Love the review.


Fantastic job again, T!


Great review...sounds like a fun time!


ive never heard of the rx bandits but you make me want to listen to them. great review once again.


fantastic review! this is one of my favorites of yours. =)


I LOVE the Bandits. I am so happy to see them get some attention! They are such a great group of guys and put on a fantastic live show.

Thank you for reviewing their show. You are a fantastic writer.


I like the lighting in these pics, especially for a camera phone. Cool!

This review is really, really well-written. I love your method of picking out a few songs to highlight and describe but also giving the overall feel.

You rock!


This is a fantastic review. You bring all the bands and their music to life!


aha your comment about mathcore made me laugh. you are a great writer: interesting and detailed!


I saw this tour in LA and it was one of my favorite shows I've been to. First time seeing the Rx Bandits and they put on a hell of a show. I thought Maps and Atlases was pretty good too, it's cool to see them get some attention like this!


Is that guy playing a trumpet?? That's awesome.

This review is great it's journalistic while still having a quality like you are just describing it to a friend.

great job1


OMG i remember talking to u about this band forever ago! haha. them, something corporate and finch were always my fav drivethru bands. this is a great review, makes me want to see them again!

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