with The Ettes
Backbooth, Orlando, Fl • November 14, 2009
With Orlando’s annual Anti-Pop Festival in full swing, downtown was teeming with concert-goers hopping from venue to venue to catch the myriad musical acts made available for their viewing pleasure. Nestled in the dark over on Pine Street, Fake Problems kept the proprietors of Backbooth happy by packing the house for their enviable Saturday night time slot — proof positive that the Naples, Florida band is finally starting to get the attention it deserves after three plus years of incessant touring.
Another band perpetually on the road is The Ettes. Just about every few months, the newly beefed up four-piece comes through town and frustrates me with its inability to live up to the umph they deliver on record. Drummer Poni Silver is forever a force to be reckoned with, and her pile driving yet sassy style was ever present on this fine November night, but singer/guitarist Coco Hames has yet to fully embrace her inner front woman.
Preferring to perform in low light (“Could you kill the white lights, please?” she asked the man in the booth after just one song under bright lights) and allowing new lead guitarist Johnny to handle most of the guitar action, Hames appeared apprehensive about stealing the spotlight for too long. Her vocals bore the appropriate balance between sultry pop and unpolished garage rock, and her pinball machine hops between her guitarist and bassist found her as animated as I’ve seen her onstage, yet still there was a weak link holding their performance back.
Until I discover what that missing link is, or that certain something magically resolves itself, I’ll continue to see this band play live in hopes of hearing the fun and the frenzy that I hear on disc.
Fake Problems, the alternative folk/punk hybrid with an ever-changing cast of guest musicians, is quite the opposite in that their recorded music doesn’t nearly do their live shows justice. Treating the club like a living room filled with friends, the band — led by the charming and commanding Chris Farren on vocals and guitar — played as if their livelihood depended on it. Nailing down one solid rock ‘n’ roll wonder after another, these young dudes are on the path paved by Against Me and The Gaslight Anthem, but are distinguishing themselves enough to not be downgraded as a “copy” of either one.
Though all of those bands are pulling from the same well of sources (punk, folk, and good ol’ fashioned rock ‘n’ roll), Fake Problems delivers the mashed-up goods with a throat scraping, Southern boy sincerity and vigor, courtesy of the unique voice of Farren. Take for example a song like “The Dream Team,” which absolutely begs for a sing-along and gets it, abundantly. Its simple lyrics (I wanna be the American dream/ But I need you right next to me/If I’m ever gonna feel free) could easily become sappy pap if sung by any other voice.
Farren gives these words weight, depth, and Springsteen-ian passion. The same can be said for the near country balladry of “There Are Times,” with its musical plea of “Why don’t, why don’t, why don’t, why don’t you love me?” Farren delivered such sentiments, arms spread, with unabashed sweetness.
It was a minimalistic version of the band that took the corner stage this time around — when they played Orlando back in the spring they had both a cellist and a trumpet player in the mix. Stripping away the extra elements gave the band a rawer sound and more breathing room onstage for the four occupying it. As gorgeous as they sounded with the added flair, I much prefer this compact-size edition of Fake Problems — with the guitar, bass, drums, and vocals rubbing right up close against one another.
This is a band that thrives on the body heat of a crowded room, and with every ounce of alcohol consumed they sounded better and better. At show’s end, most fans were left drenched and happy — the telling sign of a great rock show.
To see more photos from this show, and others, go to www.jencray.com.
Fake Problems: www.fakeproblems.com