Von Bondies don’t get it done
A review of the Von Bondies at Great Scott on Tuesday, January 22
It seems that the Von Bondies are doomed to White Stripes comparisons for the rest of their days, what with their shared Detroit roots, garage rock leanings, and lead singer Jason Stollsteimer’s Jack White-aping howl, not to mention that infamous club brawl between the leading men. Unfortunately for the Von Bondies, they are going to come out on the bad side of most of those comparisons.
It’s not that the Von Bondies were bad Tuesday night at Great Scott. It’s just that they weren’t all that good, showing that they’re an average band capable of an occasional high point. The set began with the down and dirty bass and tom rumble of “Lack of Communication” as Stollsteimer showed off his voice’s uncanny White resemblance from behind his shoulder length hair.
What the Von Bondies have that the Stripes don’t are a whole bunch of band members, including original drummer Don Blum and new members guitarist / keyboardist Alicia Gbur, guitarist Matt Lannoo, and bassist Leann Banks. Unfortunately, again, the three guitar attack didn’t offer much interest, as all three routinely played the exact same thing.
“The Fever” allowed the new female band members to contribute nicely contrasting backing vocals. It was followed up by a song off the band’s forthcoming album, Love, Hate, And Then There’s You. The song featured a dance hi-hat feel that is becoming ubiquitous at rock shows and a crowded guitar mix.
After a “Broken Bricks” rip-off and a couple of uninspired, generic rockers, Banks and Blum locked in for a slow, southern-rock groove and Gbur moved over to keyboards, creating space for the other two guitars. The song, “Been Swank”, nearly redeemed the entire set.
“Wake Me Up” continued the winning two guitar one keyboard sound and led into the band’s hit song “C’mon C’mon”. It was an interesting choice to play so early in the set, but it must have been because the song’s repetitive nature is more grating live than on the radio.&
The rest of the night was unremarkable, some new songs, some old songs, an attempt at a ballad with “No Sugar Mama”. It wasn’t until the drastically stretched out “Broken Man” that Stollsteimer attempted to play to the crowd, telling them to get excited because “it’s a fucking Tuesday.” Unfortunately, again, there was little to get excited about during the band’s set.
Fellow Detroit natives SSM made up for the lack of imagination in the main set with plenty of their own. Sounding a bit like TV on the Radio, SSM’s droning, noisy brand of industrial psych rock took unexpected turns and played with the band’s own sense of melody and harmony. Every once in a while singer / keyboard player John Szymanski and guitar player / singer Marty Morris would hit on all the more welcome moments of pop in the midst of their experimental soundscapes.&
Freer, also from Detroit, kicked off the night, sounding like a smarter, rougher Maroon 5 or an indie Robert Randolph band (or the R & B side of TV on the Radio). Their use of classically influenced piano in the midst of noisy rock songs was interesting, and bassist Jeffrey Freer’s dance rhythms enticed the crowd.&