Fang Island | 07.29.12

fangWith Fang, you just feel good listening to them, and with a big smile on your face because the music is just boiling over with happy.

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with Florestan and Zechs Marquise
Off Broadway, St. Louis

Fang Island’s set was a good mix of songs from both their debut and the latest album. Their debut was in my personal best of list for 2010, and their new album, which just hit last week, will end up in my best of this year. If you are not familiar with Fang Island, they are a math rock/post-rock/95 percent instrumental band. Unlike most others of this ilk, their songs are very positive and uplifting—a fact which their lead singer even acknowledges: “We are all about positivity up here.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love acts like Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, and Godspeed! You Black Emperor, but damn, their music is very serious and dour. With Fang, you just feel good listening to them, and with a big smile on your face because the music is just boiling over with happy. As with Zechs Marquise, one of the openers, who were visibly having fun on stage. When bands are having fun, it makes the show even more enjoyable. I was slightly apprehensive as to how the new songs, which actually feature lyrics, would play out live. Thankfully, they worked nicely. The three-guitar assault sounded great and the rhythm section was tight. The lyrics felt first like fist-pumping chants, then storytelling lyrics, and I’m totally cool with that. My only complaint was disappointment with the crowd. Not in their enthusiasm, which was there, but in the lack of crowd itself. My exhausted and unscientific count netted about 100, which is a damn shame, as this place should have been packed. I was worried the band would have fed on this lack of crowd and give us a weak effort, but they played like the place was jam-packed. Standout tracks for me were “Life Coach,” “Seek It,” “Dooney Rock,” and “Chime Out.” And I love that their set list was written out with black magic marker on spiral notebook paper.fang1

Prior to Fang Island taking stage, Florestan, a local act from Belleville, opened the show. A brief but promising set from the dual guitarists and drummer featured heavy use of effects and tapping versus standard strumming and finger picking. Being a guitarist (albeit not a good one), I was geeking out on the extensive use of this method of playing. The final song in their set, “Seahorse,” was spectacular. Again, a very promising set. I would love to see these guys again with a little more time to play. You can hear some of their songs here.

Zechs Marquise was the second opener. I went into this not ever hearing of this El Paso math rock group. I found out later that the drummer, bassist, and keyboardist are all brothers of Omar Rodriquez-Lopez from Mars Volta, and the drummer is actually MV’s keyboardist and percussionist. The best way I can describe their music is stoner rock meets post-rock meets jam band. I was absolutely blown away by these guys. They were on key every time, sounded super tight, and were having a blast on stage. Not sure what it is with the Rodriquez -Lopez family, but damn: All are outstanding musicians. Marcel on drums was an absolutely beast. He was easily one of the most entertaining drummers I’ve seen play. He stepped on the gas and never let up until they stopped playing, beating his drums within an inch of their lives. Songs certainly had a very stoner-rock feel without the cryptic/nonsensical lyrics you get a lot of times, which means was thick and heavy. Besides their heavy tone, both guitarists where excellent at tearing through riffs and solos throughout the set. Manfred Rodriquez-Lopez was no slouch on the bass, and acts as the band’s mouthpiece. If you ever get a chance to see these guys, do it. You will not be disappointed.

Overall, an excellent night of rock. | Mike Koehler

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