STRAYLIGHT RUN + Honorary Title + Gratitude + more @ Cabaret La Tulipe

By Mikey B - The Lonesome Strangers - 05/04/2005

In the last week, I’ve been privileged to see some amazing bands. Motörhead robbed me of my aural virginity, Goldfinger rocked my pants off and Straylight Run put me to sleep.

Due to some guestlist mix-up that was fortunately settled after 40 minutes, I missed the punk/emo stylings of Chicago’s Spitalfield (pronounced Spittle-Field) who were touring in support of their new album Stop Doing Bad Things. Their debut album Remember Right Now came out less than two years ago on Victory Records, and I managed to get a promo copy of it. Since I happen to like a lot of bands that get tagged as “emo”, people assume I will like any wussy emo shit that comes along. The Weakerthans, Jets To Brazil, Jimmy Eat World... they’re great bands on all levels. But Spitalfield? Their songs are alright, until vocalist Mark Rose’s bland standard teary-eyed lyrics spill out. They’re predictable, and sound like an ultra watered-down version of Thursday. If I really want to see them, I guess I can wait a few weeks until they come back with Silverstein, who aren’t half bad.

I made it into La Tulipe just as Gratitude was starting up their set. They opened up for Jimmy Eat World back in November, where they gave a jaw-droppingly unusual live performance -- in the bad sense. Here, the over-the-top, exaggerated stage antics of vocalist Jonah Mantranga stole the show. Combine the dancing cheesiness of Moulin Rouge with an Olympic ribbon twirling floor exercise, mix in a few emo fist clenches, and you get a Gratitude live performance. What’s unusual is that their record isn’t really terrible. It consists mostly of sappy ballads that’d probably make the next cut of the O.C. soundtrack. Unfortunately, I listened to their album after having seen them live, so while it was playing, I'd get flashbacks of a grown man onstage whirling and twirling like a ballerina. Listen to the CD and judge for yourself and if you think you can endure their live performance, be my guest.

During the break, I got to hook up with my neighbors Alex & Dave who were at the show. Thank God I found someone I knew. This show was boring as fuck, and Alex woke me up a bit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this guy sober, which is awesome. I wish I was plastered for this show, I would’ve probably had a better time.

The last time I ventured to La Tulipe, it was to review the pop rock duo Tegan & Sara. That show was insane, and the venue was packed to the gills. For this particular spectacle, the place was half full. The floor was pretty empty for all the opening acts, which is pretty lousy, but not surprising. The best part of this kind of show, was the assembly of cute emo chicks. Wall-to-wall cuties everywhere. Too bad for me, I never really approached any of them. We wouldn’t get along anyways, these bands suck, and these girls have lousy taste in music. What a great pick up line!

The Honorary Title came on next, and they had been greatly overhyped by my sweet yet tipsy friend Anastasia. I was told that if I liked Bright Eyes, then I’d love this band. Well, I didn’t. The band is actually a duo, but performs as a quartet live. Vocalist Jarrod Gorbel kicked into his set with a few songs that made him sound as if he were singing love songs in a wedding hall. Harmless, bland, and a little cheesy, his vocals did have a diluted Iggy Pop feel to them. Just a little raspy and unfettered, with that slick emo sensation. Their musical ensemble was much more similar to Dashboard Confessional’s than to that of Bright Eyes. For those of your snickering right now, YES, there is a difference. If you like Dashboard, you’ll probably like these guys. Their onstage banter was pretty unusual, as the vocalist did yell out something along the lines of “blowjobs!”, and later on, their bassist mentioned that they love Ontario. Aside from that, their interaction with the audience was heartfelt, I’ll give 'em that. I think I’ll download some of their songs, because I’m thinking that their live performance didn’t do them justice.

Next up were the headliners, Straylight Run who were greeted enthusiastically by the entire audience. As most people know, the band was formed by John Nolan & Shaun Cooper, both former members of Taking Back Sunday. Along with Will Noon on drums, and Nolan’s hot sister Michelle on keyboards, Straylight Run was formed just a little over a year ago. Although I received a copy of the CD a long time ago, I had never given it a chance. Now that I was reviewing the show, I thought maybe this would be a good time to give it a whirl. I must say that I was intrigued with some of the titles on the album, like “Existentialism On Prom Night”, “Tool Sheds & Hot Tubs”, as well as having the album's opening track being a tearjerker called “The Perfect Ending”. The record is pretty tight, combining great pop melodies with sweet melancholic vocals. The guitar/piano dynamic works well, whereas it does grow annoying with several other bands. The problem with their live performance has nothing to do with them as a band. It has everything to do with the caliber of bands that preceded them. By the end of the night, I was so exhausted, I could barely keep my eyes open. When they were open, I would usually be focusing on their dreamy keyboardist Michelle.


I had imagined yelling that out all night. This would’ve been hypocritical of me, having two sisters of my own and I happen to go nuts whenever anyone makes a sick sister joke. I get a little stabby.

Michelle did sing backup vocals and sang an unreleased song that made me nearly fall out of my chair. The show ended off with the beautiful “For The Best”, an ode to confusion and uncertainty. The song became my favorite song of the night, next to Michelle’s song. They then played a quick encore, which they said was somewhat of a rare occurrence on this tour.

So to summarize; don’t waste your hard-earned money going to these less-than-stellar emo shows unless you really love the bands. In this case, I didn’t really like any of them until Straylight Run came on. I was sleepy before the headliners could even make it onstage. Next time these guys go on tour, I’ll be sure to bring a case of Red Bull. Either that, or skip out on the openers.

[Tune in to The Lonesome Strangers Tuesdays 12pm - 2pm]