Centro-matic | 07.20.07

live_centro"Calling Thermatico" flows from the same vein as many of Centro-matic's songs. Enigmatic and defying all explanation, the song describes a person, a situation, a mood—a general context.






Wicker Park Music Festival, Chicago

I have seen Centro-matic play a ridiculous number of shows over the past ten years (and, before that, saw Will Johnson play in a previous band, Funland), and I enjoy them every single time. As far as I know, they never have an off night. Worshipped as local rock gods within greater Denton/Dallas/Fort Worth, there is always a fear that the "local celebrity" group will sink outside their comfort zone. However, Centro never fails to win over new audiences, be they honky-tonker, frat boy, or Wicker Park über-hipster.

With the stage setup beneath the Damen Avenue el train stop, Centro-matic had just begun as I arrived. As the band worked its way through an awesome set, the crowd gradually started to loosen up, dancing and singing along to the "Sha-la-la-Sha-la-la-la-la"'s of "Strahan Has Corralled the Freaks." It seemed like people started getting it.

And the guys were in fine form. Even though Johnson told the audience that they had just driven 11 hours to get there, they were no worse for wear. The entire set was lively and well received. With nine full-length albums to their credit and various and sundry other EPs/side projects/collaborations to draw from, I wonder how they manage to decide upon a setlist.

Disappointingly, they didn't play a lot of their new material. Centro's latest release was the excellent Operation Motorcide EP (on Houston Party Records, located in Barcelona, Spain—are Texans taking over the world?), and they only played one track from that, the heartbroken yet optimistic "Atlanta." They also delivered just one song from their most recent full-length, Fort Recovery, "Calling Thermatico."

"Calling Thermatico" flows from the same vein as many of Centro's songs. Enigmatic and defying all explanation, the song describes a person, a situation, a mood—a general context. In a post-modern sense, the meaning of these songs could be considered to be the discourse between Centro-matic and the listener. From "Calling Thermatico":

early in the century he was the larcenist
the gasohol arsonist, the consequent flier
and later as a centerpiece,
he was discovered dealing with raven, kissing the liars

Other songs, many from the band's earlier records, can also be classified as straight-up rockers. I have spent many an afternoon dancing in my apartment to Centro's 1997 classic Redo the Stacks. This album has been called a pop masterpiece, and if you don't own it yet, get it. Or better yet, wait for the long-fabled vinyl release. (Don't hold your breath; it's kind of an in joke.)

The band wrapped up with "The Blisters May Come" followed by "Fidgeting Wildly." Both of the songs are powerful, both musically and emotionally, and work very well together. It gave the band a chance to spread out a little and enjoy themselves, the refrain from "Fidgeting Wildly" echoing across Chicago:

So you're kicking out the hi-fi jams,
you're fidgeting wildly
There's too much downtime
But you're trapped in your room,
and you're the only audience
There's too much downtime.

And then Will Johnson actually did that thing where you play your guitar behind your head. And it made my day. | Morgan Davis

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