Royal BangsNov. 8, Sticky Fingerz
When you hear the album of an ambitious five-piece like Knoxville’s Royal Bangs, so beat-layered and synth-addled, it’s easy to respect the potency of their music, but you can’t help wondering if they’re going to capsize live. But despite residual hangovers from having played Fun Fun Fun Fest Saturday in Austin, Royal Bangs shook it up right Sunday night.
Frontman/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist/all-around wunderkind Sam Stratton held court front and center, launching into gospel-caliber wails within seconds of the opening number. The immediate, fireball energy the band brings is enough to startle you sober—in the first song, every single band member starts dancing, and not just pseudo-rockstar posturing, I mean dancing. It's joyous; it knocks you sideways.
Stratton is flanked by the dueling guitars of Brandon Biondo and Ryan Schaefer, who alternately created a massive wall of sound and play flirty call-and-response Television-esque melodic riffs. The driving rhythm is brought by Henry Gibson on bass, and Chris Rusk absolutely murdering his drumkit — his snare actually did break, a largely unnoticed misfortune. The rhythm and melodies are supplemented by Stratton's beats and synth flourishes, for good measure: songs like "Brainbow" sounded like thoughtful indie-pop composed over the “MegaMan 3” soundtrack.
But that’s not to say Royal Bangs are just your little sister’s favorite synth-pop dance band — the tune "Shit Xmas" appeared out of nowhere, a triumphant, adolescent-feeling power pop anthem, almost meriting a fist-pump, and cemented their genre-straddling appeal. Sunday isn’t usually the best night to hear music in Little Rock. But you should have been there. It felt like the college house party you still tell stories about.