Originally published on August 29, 2011
RX Bandits, Zechs Marquise :: 08.07.11 :: Regency Ballroom :: San Francisco, CA
|RX Bandits @ Regency by Annelise Poda|
Orange County genre transcending band RX Bandits delivered an ear assaulting, heart tugging and cardio heavy last ever performance in San Francisco. This show was truly special, and everyone in attendance knew it as they belted out lyrics memorized long ago and collided with one another in the pit. This band has grown from a third wave ska band into a group with eclectic progressive rock, punk and world music influences, and they’ve amassed a giant following of loyal fans over 15 years of excessive touring. The intense energy of their live show has a magnetic pull that keeps bringing people back to experience their music again and again, and this was the last chance to be a part of a RX Bandits show.
El Paso prog rock outfit Zechs Marquise opened up the night with a set of heavy jams. Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez, keyboardist for the Mars Volta, plays drums in this band alongside his bass playing younger brother, Marfred. Experimental rock juice must run through this family’s blood, as they grinded out song after song of complex drum parts, distorted muddy bass lines, metric guitar riffs, and melodic keyboard accents. All of these sounds intertwined with each other seamlessly, even while conforming to ever-changing time signatures. Zechs Marquise was a good choice to open the show, and the audience seemed to be in a trance while they nodded their heads to the multi-faceted sounds that came from the stage.
This trance was shattered by the time RX Bandits were about to take the stage. Chants of “RXB” melted away into cheers as frontman Matt Embree and the rest of the band took the stage and swung right into an adrenaline boosting set of songs pulled from their last three albums in mostly chronological order. “VCG III” and “Consequential Apathy” were played off of their 2001 release Progress, and they continued with a sampling of tracks off of the subsequent 2003 album, The Resignation.
The energy on the dance floor had been very high all night, but it got kicked up another notch during crowd favorites “Dinna-dawg” and “Decrescendo”. Fans yelled out lyrics in unison with Embree, and the dance floor grew more physical with the addition of many colorful mosh pit residents, including big shirtless sweaty guys, a couple who somehow could continuously make out while violently swinging each other around, and more surprisingly, a group of people that would daringly ballroom dance with each other through this precarious area when the floor opened up. I’ve always noticed that crowds at RXB shows are full of really friendly and happy people, and they create a very welcoming form of chaos.
The band played brief down-tempo jams in between various songs, and these small moments highlighted other musical talents that are not the focus in many of the full-length compositions. It’s neat to hear an organ solo from multi-instrumentalist Steve Choi, or a quiet detailed drum beat from percussionist Chris Tsagakis. Another mellow song in the set was the reggae based “Apparition” that turned into a swaying sing along. Embree also engaged the audience in his politically charged song “Overcome” in a call and response singing session, and the venue was filled with a vibe of togetherness.
If the first set was energetic, then the encore was explosive. I’ve seen RX Bandits many times in the past ten or so years, and I can say that I’m always surprised at how beautifully crafted and amazing their encores are. They started off by playing a selection of songs off their most recent album …And the Battle Begun. The last of these tracks was “Only for the Night”. This song started out as a normal performance, but then Embree and Choi joined Tsagakis on auxiliary drum sets and pounded out heavy, overlapping jungle beats. After minutes of this, all the other instruments gradually came back in, starting with horn solos and working their way up to a full band version of the chorus once more.
After that massive sound breakdown, Embree switched gears into a gentle rendition of Manu Chao’s “Clandestino,” which I thought was a really cool choice of songs to cover. Embree mentioned at this point that he was just trying to hold it together until the show was over, and it was the first time he had even acknowledged that it was their last performance. The last chords of “Clandestino” drifted away and all the sudden the band snapped back into the chorus of “Only for the Night,” bringing the encore full circle. After that last hurrah, all the band members came together for a huge group hug, took a final bow, and left the stage to the lasting cheers of an elated audience.
The RX Bandits had a great run, and the crowd at this show definitely gave them an awesome send off. The energy was through the roof, and people were still singing as they walked out the doors. Their entire fan base will be sad to see them go, but it’s a good bet that their talents will continue to be channeled into a variety of new projects that we can all look forward to.