Orlando, Fl • September 4, 2007
They haven’t put out an album of new music in eight years, and you probably haven’t thought of them for as long, but The Rentals are back with not just a new album but with a tour to back it up. Who are The Rentals?, those of you born after 1990 are asking. They began as a side project for original Weezer bassist Matt Sharp, and the ever-evolving cast of characters in its midst have included Weezer drummer Pat Wilson, That Dog violinist Petra Haden and Saturday Night Live alum Maya Ruldoph! These days the ever-animated Sharp is backed by a brand new cast including Rachel Haden (Petra’s sister), and the charming Sara Radle.
For the reunited band’s Orlando gig, they tacked on a pair of mellower-than-most rock acts that didn’t exactly get my blood pumping.
Goldenboy is led by Shon Sullivan (who doubles as a guest Rental during the headliner’s set), a skilled guitarist with a sweet voice who sounds like Elliott Smith had he been less depressed and backed by a full band. The soft drops of quiet alternative folk music aren’t horrible, but it’s the sort of music best reserved for the background. Cranking it up and dragging it on for 40 minutes is not the best way to indulge in a little Goldenboy. A small taste would have gone a long way, but after 20 minutes I found myself aching for the set to end.
When Copeland came on and the crowd went absolutely nutty, I thought to myself, when did this band get so popular? As it turns out, they’re from Central Florida (Lakeland), so this was a bit of a homecoming for this middle-of-the-road indie/alt band. The venue was not packed by House of Blues standards (an absurdly low advance ticket number that I won’t even reveal, but considering that the following night’s The Used show was a sell-out, it’s just a travesty to see so few patrons out to support a former Weezer man!), but more than half of the folks inside seem to be there solely for Copeland. These boys have some serious hometown fans!
Now, their music was still not caffeine charged enough for my particular sleepy state of mind on this particular night, but I must say how floored I was by vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Aaron Marsh’s voice. Though it was a bit of an emo-ized Matt Bellamy (Muse), his power when he chose to use it was ridiculous! He held one note so high, so loud and for so long that I lost mental count, it was just flat out impressive. And need I point out how much the audience loved these guys!?! Ok, their song “Control Freak” even had me bopping my head.
Sadly, most of these fans made a beeline for either the exit or the merch table (to talk with the guys) immediately following their set. An empty room becomes emptier, but those that remain are cult-like fans of this little spinoff band that most people have forgotten.
Myself, I had only encountered the band on the most surface of levels. “Friends of P”- catchy tune, of course! They had one or two other songs I remember hearing in friends’ cars, and I remember grooving along, but I never coughed up the cash for an album of my own. Sheer curiousity brought me to the show, and even after the coma-inducing openers I was transfixed by Matt Sharp’s little band that could.
Sharp is a product of the alternative boom of the 90’s, and he performs with a fun-filled flail once reserved only for the Michael Stipes of the musical world. He pogos, he rolls around the edge of the stage, he leans in so close to my camera to pose for me that I have to back up to focus. He is a showman, and when paired up with the silky sexy vocals of his strapping young ladies (Haden and Sara Radle), The Rentals transform into a band that needs no Weezer footnote. They intermingle new songs (a big horray for “Life Without a Brain!”) with the old cult faves, and -though the room is loose- Sharp seems truly grateful for those who have managed to come out to see the band.
And the crowd are just grateful. “It’s been too long!” one fan in the front row yells out.
They may night make the evening news like The Police, Rage Against the Machine, or Smashing Pumpkins, but still The Rentals are a reunion tour to catch this year.