- DOGGED: The Format fights on.
This past weekend, while trying to relax by switching on the one channel that is semi-viewable on my 3-inch-by-5-inch TV — obviously, I’ve embraced the modern age with gusto — I found myself watching a static-filled moment of “American Idol.”
I don’t mean to sound above it all when I say I haven’t watched much “Idol.” I’m keenly aware of the phenomenon but, as noted, I’m sorely lacking in the appliances department.
Nevertheless, it is Simon Cowell (that charmer) who will jump-start the tone for this week’s clubs report. In critiquing a performance by former Idol Kelly Clarkson he sits smugly baffled by the other judges’ kudos for Miss Clarkson’s vibrato-laden rendition of “For Once in My Life.” “I’m just wondering if you’re being sarcastic,” Cowell says as the judges gush over Clarkson, “because I think you’re just comparing it to how bad everything was before. Because it was good but it wasn’t brilliant. I’m not blown away.”
This critique seemly aptly true. Many times I find myself saying, “Well it’s good, but …”
This week you’ll find several of those “good” shows around Little Rock. The music, with a determinedly “gonna make it” mindset, includes several bands that hover at the “decent” or “amazing” crossroads.
First up is The Format at Little Rock’s newest concert venue, The Village. The last time I was at a Format show it was at Juanita’s Cantina Ballroom. The bar was jammed full of kids a few years younger than myself with a penchant for striped sweaters, polo shirts and jeans that left nothing to the imagination. After searching for about 20 minutes for a square inch that was not filled with high-pitched giggling, my friend and I retreated to the back only to have our table bombarded with high schoolers talking about how awesome it was the last time they got “f’ed-up.” OK. In some variation we’ve all been there. And it’s very likely we’ve sat down at a table unknowingly making fools of ourselves while trying to impress our jaded elders. Unfortunately that night we couldn’t stomach the 45 minutes more we’d have to wait for the band to go on and instead sneaked out the back.
Luckily, the Village is going to give us a second chance and a little more room to take it in. The Format, hailing form Arizona, brings an indie-pop sensibility with a rocky history.
After being dropped from two major labels, you would think the dream would die, but it wasn’t the case with The Format. Formed by Nate Russ and Sam Means, The Format signed with Elektra in 2002 only to be promotionally snubbed. After the Elektra label went under, The Format was picked up by Atlantic in 2005. Last fall they were dropped again.
Luckily this time The Format was prepared and set out to create its own label: The Vanity Label. Their newest album, “Dog Problems,” is dedicated to (what else?) a wavering romantic relationship. The Format’s sound — pop with a pinch of something more alternative — is nothing incredibly new. Only one or two songs from The Format’s newest album are appealing enough to make me weather a night at Juanita’s. The track “Dog Problems,” with its use of keyboard and “L is for the way I love you” type lyrical moment, suggests that The Format is looking to break free from its sarcastic cookie-cutter industry inspired name.
You’ll find The Format somewhere between The Starting Line, Gym Class Heroes and This Day and Age in the show on Sunday, Nov. 19, starting at 8 p.m.
If you’re willing to brave Juanita’s on Saturday, Nov. 18, you can catch Ohio-based band Lovedrug. Lovedrug signed with Militia records (also the label of Umbrellas, who performed at Juanita’s on Nov. 6) and are suggested as “the poster band of choice for your maturing younger sister.” They’ve shared the stage with Robert Plant, Cat Power and the Killers. However, they’ve also shared the stage with Hanson.
They’re heavy on guitar riffs, drums, discordant repetitions and whispery, harmonized rocker vocals. They get constant comparisons to Coldplay, but their sound is distinctly heavier on the rock ’n’ roll side and often relies on voice play rather than instruments to achieve effects. They’ll be playing with electronica rockers Brandston, the ice cream sweet musicians The Myriad, and North Little Rock rockers Bear Colony.
Also this week: On Thursday at Sticky Fingerz college country with Django Walker — and proving the six degrees of separation theory, on Thursday, Nov. 16, at White Water it’s Nathan Singleton and Sideshow Tragedy, the one-time opening band for Django ... On Friday, Nov. 17, at the Village, the San Diego power band Switchfoot delivers its lyrics for both the spiritual and secular. … Nasty Abbott’s new album, “Straight for Fun,” will be unveiled at a CD release party on Friday Nov. 17, at Midtown Billiards, a few doors down from Juanita’s on Main Street. The band will be in the house starting at 9 p.m., and the show will start at 1 a.m. CDs will be sold for $10, and there is no cover if you’re a Midtown member arriving before 11 p.m. Afterward, admission for nonmembers is $3 and a full year’s membership … On Saturday at the Revolution Room it’s Outkast’s backing band, Whild Peach. Their groovy sound is like a familiar Outkast song without Andre Benjamin’s distinctive vocals. … Have you been wondering what you’ve been missing? According to David Lawrence and J-One, it’s R. Kelly-inspired vocals. Go see if they can fill the void with The Usual Suspectz CD release party at Juanita’s on Wednesday, Nov. 22 ... The aging LA punk legend Exene Cervenka and The Original Sinners appear at Vino’s on Tuesday, Nov. 21. … At White Water Tavern on Tuesday, check out some new wave from Lansing, Mich., with Vega, as well as The Danny Malone Band and Scouts Honor.