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We Are Scientists and Kings of Leon
Nokia Theater, LA
October 15, 2008

Ah, the woes of the lesser bands on the bill. They suffer through the milling crowds of someone else’s fans, watching scores of people chit chat aimlessly, not really interested in what they have to say. Fans are selfish- they come only to see those that they know, anyone else is just background music. Poor Stills, not even I attended their performance. We Are Scientists nearly shared their fate- under appreciated by a theater barely half full of uninterested Kings of Leon fans, though I must say in my heart, I was seeing a WAS show, and KOL might as well have been the lesser band on the bill.

For the record, I love We Are Scientists. I have loved them for some time now, since I bought their debut album With Love and Squalor in 2006, and will force anyone in the presence of me and a CD player to listen to it. Their dance-y rhythms are the perfect accompaniment for a jog at the gym, a stroll through campus, or whilst making scans at work, but I have to admit I can’t listen to them at work anymore, getting caught shaking my booty in the plotter room is rather embarrassing. Keith Murray’s voice is loud and pure, strutting a rhythm all its own, and Chris Cain backs him up with solid bass lines.

Sadly, their show was lacking. Specifically, they were lacking a good man on the soundboard. The vocals were too loud, and then too quiet; the guitars were drowned by the drums. They couldn’t find balance in the sound, and thus, they sounded inexperienced and hollow. Their usually gripping rhythms should have filled the Nokia with sound, despite its almost empty appearance, but they fell flat.

It was rather disappointing to me, as I was really there to surround myself in their off-beat melodies. My partner kept remarking that their sound and their show were rather anti-climactic, and in fact, they were. The most bitter of all my disappointments was the amount of people who were looking on blankly, not knowing who these gents were, and will in the future write off this band due to a bad performance.

In the twenty minutes after We Are Scientists left the stage, the nearly empty theater quickly filled for Kings of Leon. It’s clear that they have become the newest fad in indie rock. Their fans are certainly dedicated, and every single one was dancing with excitement. I couldn’t help myself, once KOL took the stage, I was dancing too. They seem a bit trendy, especially in dress and hair styles, but there is talent there to back up the looks. Their songs filled the theater with such amazing energy it was difficult to sit still.

Kings of Leon have a rougher sound, though not in a gritty grunge-y way. Their rhythms are rough, and Caleb Followill’s voice rises and falls with a bit of edge to it. This was my first (sort of, I did see their SNL performance) KOL experience, and while I liked what I heard, I find I can’t describe well how to distinguish them without digging deeper into their music on my own. I do like their single “Sex on Fire,” though we left the Nokia Theater before they played it. I think we missed some sort grand finale- throughout the evening small bits of confetti rained from the ceiling, a small promise of something more to come (even if that something is only raking tissue paper out of my hair).

I will say one thing about their performance- I can’t figure Caleb Followill out. He never smiles and his face is always solid. It’s incredibly strange to watch a lead singer perform without making a facial expression, save for scrunching his eyebrows to crack out high notes. Is he afraid? Annoyed? Aloof? He seems to be focusing on looking at no one, and his eyes are nearly always on the ceiling. It’s troubling to me, as if he’s annoyed that he’s there being worshipped by his fans, or perhaps intimidated by the vast number of people. Maybe it’s something more, but I shall never know.

-Caitlin Elgin