Cage the Elephant
with Morning Teleportation, Autovaughn
Firestone Live, Orlando, Fl • May 16, 2010
Cage the Elephant may have put out one of the most innovative albums to come across my personal radar in 2009, but the number of fans willing to shell out $20 to see a new band with only one album under their belt still surprised me.
Firestone Live was uncomfortably packed for what I had thought was a relatively unknown, genre-juggling band from middle America (Kentucky), whose success seems to have spread by word of mouth and blogging. Who knew that so many Central Florida listeners were hip to the band’s funky, punky, garage-y indie rock sound?
Also surprising — how well-received the two openers were by the masses. Autovaughn played unoffensive (and unmemorable) pop rock of the adult contemporary variety (like Goo Goo Dolls, or Keane without the addiction issues) which I didn’t enjoy but would have welcomed back to the stage gladly in exchange for the following band, Morning Teleportation.
An explosion of hippie jam-banding led by a lead singer wearing a Hawaiian shirt, polka-dot boxers, and a baseball cap with a giant flower on the front, this was a clusterfuck of wrongness that I just Did. Not. Get. They had a whole myriad of instruments including a talk box, a tambourine (worn, for one song, on the bass player’s head), chimes, and a trumpet. It was all so disjointed and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink. They gave the room a very tripped out psychedelic and freaky vibe, maybe I just wasn’t drunk enough to find the groove.
Cage the Elephant did not require such hard work to enjoy, or even understand. As discombobulated as their sound can be — imagine Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck, Rolling Stones, and Violent Femmes tossed in a blender — the melodies are easy to hear and the choruses beg to be sung to. At the front of it all lies Matt Shultz, the mop-topped vocalist who’s a spastic spin-top set in motion by the first drum beat and whose revolutions only stop for a quick breath of air at the close of each song. He’s the kind of front man who makes seeing the band a joy to both the eyes and the ears. Vocally he doesn’t have to do much other than white boy rap and scream on occasion, so his boundless energy adds a much required special something to his vocal delivery.
With just the one album to pull from, the set list was pretty much their self-titled debut on shuffle, but reanimated in person thanks to not only the band’s efforts, but the audience’s unexpected enthusiasm. Even at the back bars, far from the usual “raving fans” who set up camp in crowded packs in front of the stage, folks were singing along to “Back Stabbin’ Betty,” “Back Against the Wall,” and the hit single “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.”
The only setback to the band’s show was the relative enormity to the stage and the wide gap between it and the crowd. Shultz seemed desperate to be in the crowd as opposed to above it. I would have loved to have seen this same show in one of the more in-your-face venues like The Social or BackBooth, where the only barrier between band and fans is a two-foot drop. This guy wanted to sweat on his fans and, by the looks of it, the fans would have loved every second of it. At the close of the final song, “Saber Tooth Tiger,” he took the leap and flew into the hands of the ecstatic fans.
Cage the Elephant proved that while you may try to contain the animal, there’s nothing like a room full of screaming fans to set that beast free!
Cage the Elephant: www.cagetheelephant.com