THE APPLES IN STEREO, FOL CHEN
Wednesday, Nov. 3
Tucson couldn't have had a better booking for the day after the midterm elections: The happiness sowed by these two bands was as cleansing as a good shower.
Fans of high-concept, costumed power-pop had an entire night of it to enjoy, and the geek squad made the most of it. Small but mighty, the audience seemed loaded with folks who would shrivel your pride in your record collection with just a glance, if they weren't so well-mannered.
Fol Chen were picturesque in their silver-striped, neon-orange outfits. Their opening impression is one of being a very smart hotel-lounge act, driven by great big beats, horn sounds on the keys and eerily tight '70s vocal harmonies. Think Devo sings the Bee Gees. The singing was almost mathematically disciplined; rich, four-part a cappella stunts were spread throughout—soloist quality vocals woven into very fine fabric.
Gay film director Patrik-Ian Polk delivered a striking exception with "The Idiot," in which his soulful phrasing and deeply resonant pitch were occasionally allowed to gleam forth from Fol Chen's otherwise conversational timbre.
The Apples in Stereo channeled aliens from a future age in support of their April 2010 release, Travellers in Space and Time. Opening the set, co-founder and frontman Robert Schneider announced, "We have come to bring a message of rocking. We're time-travelers, and we're bringing it all together tonight." Silvery stage wear suggested spacesuits, and about half of the music was from the new release.
A line from the Travellers song "Dance Floor" may have spoken for many: "Where are we to go when our world is so confusing?" "Sun Is Out" from New Magnetic Wonder seemed to lift a weight from shoulders rounded by political strain. From song to song, the Apples' vocal harmonies and psychedelic textures seemed a one-band answer to the perennial "Stones or Beatles?" question, with "Strawberryfire" being a singular example of the latter influence.
Given the events of the previous day, some in the audience no doubt hoped Schneider would perform his "Song of Stephen," as featured on The Colbert Report. No Dice. Under the circumstances, it might have been a buzz-kill for people in the mood to put all that behind them and just have some fun.