photo by Daniel Muller
review by Steven Ashford
I’m sure there are a lot of people who felt that their prayers were answered upon hearing the initial news of The Faint returning to the stage after a two-year hiatus.
Saturday’s show marked many firsts for the electronic Saddle Creek staple: It was their first Omaha show in nearly two years — the longest, gig-less hometown stretch since the band’s inception. It was their first time playing at Slowdown and their first go-around playing without former bassist Joel Petersen (the previous night’s show in Des Moines taking the “formal” title).
The sellout factor of the show is nothing new, on the other hand. People tend to gobble up Faint tickets faster than Fleischmann's RapidRise Yeast can churn out subpar pizza dough.
Unfortunately, I do not practice early-bird ticket-purchasing, so my potential admittance to Saturday’s show was unclear until the final hours leading up to the first set. I actually received clearance while celebrating my aunt’s 60th birthday bash at a downtown winery, which is the type of place that makes my jaw cringe as I observe the discerning yuppsters crunch through nuts, cheeses and crackers while creating miniature, controlled tornados in their wine glasses with their full-throttle “breathing” spins.
Once I got word I was going to the show, I had only an hour and a half to get to Slowdown, so I abruptly shifted my thirst into full-throttle by cruising on wine buffets consisting of your typical influx of reds and whites.
As I made a direct exit from the party at precisely 9:04 p.m., I was unexpectedly halted by the Glow Run 5K happening in downtown Omaha that night. Every potential road corridor that crosses into Slowdown territory from the south was construed by these glowing monster runners of the night. An exhilarating feeling for them, I imagine, lousy inconvenience for me.
That misguided deterrent made me later than originally planned, and my arrival to Slowdown allowed me to only see the last song by Darren Keen’s Touch People.
photo by Harrison Martin
The main bowl of the venue was sparsely populated, so I casually caroused toward the front of the stage to take in the final track. Darren was accompanied by Talking Mountain’s Jason Meyer and his signature home-built, laser-induced lightshow spectacle that destroys thousands of retinas a year. Meyer was playing synthesizers while Keen remained on the keys and guitar.
The final track was called “Body Rhythm,” which dons an interesting motif. The song harnessed digital, fluent breakdowns while fostering encrypted analog vocals. It was like going to party of the future while stepping into a phone booth and connecting with an operator each time you had to make a call.
Still wearing a shirt at the end of his set, I can only assume Keen remained shirted throughout the entirety, which kind of breaks my heart.
It was a rapid set change between Touch People and Capgun Coup, only a 15-minute breather that kept the attention on the stage and allowed for minimal disengagement.
Capgun Coup came on with a pretentious force that proved to be impressive. Their set may have been the most crisp I have ever seen those boys play together.
It seemed like the music was the master conductor who effortlessly controlled the progression and the minds within each member of the band. Interesting improvisations on dismal, droned-out songs like “Dead is God,” allowed for a more intricate and layered approach than what remains surfaced on their most recent record, Contextual Doom.
The harmonies ran thick on those up-tempo, bougie-ass, sun-drenched pop songs like “Laugh/Cry” and “It’s Summer Now” where the choruses sparked highly energized camaraderie on the stage that send pleasant vibes toward the audience with an invitation to shake it. I noticed one woman on the balcony have a hyperbolic dance freak out, which was admirable and encouraging.
Capgun closed their set with early material from their debut LP, Brought to You by Nebraskafish, including “Social Security Number.”
GIF by Harrison Martin
By the end of the set, the Slowdown had filled for the highly anticipated feature of the night. The Faint slowly took to the stage as the lights dropped to a full-on roar.
The opening track was a dissonant cut that, referencing the set list, is abbreviated to the single-word title “Hands.” It was a gradual rise that plateaued at a midlevel new-age post-punk harkening which played to a constant doom of impending red beaming lights. The crowd seemed to be unfamiliar with this track that worked as a prelude to the rest of the set.
“The Geeks Were Right” was the follow-up, secondary track that exploded with heavy pulsation in a more recognizable “Faint” manor. The first single off 2008’s Faasciinatiion etched in a new lighting pattern for the band that disregarded the typical projectors that fans are familiar with from past shows.
The stage was dressed horizontally with mismatched variations of vertical lighting poles that, when strewn together and viewed from a distance, blended in for an interesting linear light show.
A true Faint signature you bear witness to when attending a show is seeing the band flail around on stage in their own way. For instance, Dapose (guitar/bass) was high-stepping his knees to his sternum, which made for a fantastic take on a Shetland pony show. And with his new high and tight hairdo, he somewhat resembles a pony, as well.
Jacob Thiele (keys, synth) always twists and contorts those long-ass linguini legs of his while laying down his fingers four and a half feet away from the stand. Those stretched-out tree trunks most likely have a mind of their own.
Todd Fink (vocals, bass) was sporting a pseudo-oversized floppy bucket hat that seems to be glued to his head these days. His body work resembles a digital scarecrow knotted up to marionette strings being overworked by a delirious puppet master.
photo by Daniel Muller
Even the house lights above the stage were gyrating at levels I’ve never before seen at Slowdown.
The crowd became more and more energetic as the show progressed through tracks that lie on both sides of their catalog's spectrum, including “Desperate Guys,” “Worked Up So Sexual,” and my personal favorite, “Take Me To The Hospital.”
Stage divers and crowd surfers alike kept the crowd busy, supporting those who chose to get hand passed around the small club with minimal space to travel. I always saw crowd surfing as a means to an end — a transportation device to get out of an intense crowd for a breather. Then again, I haven’t ridden that wave since I was 14 or so, which ultimately resulted in a lousy outcome.
The three-song encore was the highlight of the whole night, the climactic peak reigning supreme with “Agenda Suicide.”
It was great to see The Faint on stage again. Reuniting the band probably won’t change the world or be deemed as historically “important” in music’s lineage, but it was a breath of fresh air and seeing these songs performed live again brought back some great memories of years past.
It’s safe to say that the band still knows how to function well and the reciprocal give-and-take from the crowd showed that their demand for The Faint has stayed constant. The last thing that people seemed to take notice was the lack of their former, fifth member on stage.
Steven Ashford is a Hear Nebraska contributor. Ask him sometime, and he'll tell you what the fourth Faint member, Clark Baechle, reminds him of. Reach Steven at firstname.lastname@example.org.