Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Live Review: The Plastic Constellations, 2/13/07



Download: The Plastic Constellations - Sancho Panza
Download: The Plastic Constellations - Davico

The last time we checked in with The Plastic Constellations, the band had just released its first album with national indie bigwigs, Frenchkiss Records. One year later, the wonder boys from Hopkins have hit the road in support of Crusades five times, playing over a hundred shows in most of the lower 48 and garnering considerable critical buzz along the way.

Last Tuesday, St. Olaf College was lucky enough to host the hardest working band in Minneapolis before they break to write another record, and the well-oiled road warriors showed off their live prowess, treating a small and energetic crowd to another fearsome display of chunk rock.

Relaxing before the show with a game of Buck Hunter, the band was enthusiastic to be back in the Twin Cities.

"We’ve been on the road so much lately, it's good to be back and see our girlfriends. 2006 was the craziest year of our life," guitarist and vocalist Jeff Allen said. "Touring is a lifestyle choice, and it’s not a normal lifestyle."

Of course, the Plastic Constellations are not a normal band. They've already logged eleven years together, which is particularly noteworthy considering no band member has hit 27 yet.

"We've been doing this rock band thing together since we were 14," Allen said. "But this is the first year that we actually did multiple big national tours and really pushed ourselves."

TPC's push has clearly paid off. Leading off with the biting punk-stomp of "Sancho Panza," the band moved, shook and pounded like a tightly coiled machine. Always a stellar live act, the band's sacrificed some of its loose energy for precision, but their collective passion remains palpable.

Instead of just moshing away into a sweaty oblivion, the band focused more on dynamics, capturing the little quirks that elevate their songs above the fray, like the wiggling guitar line on "Quixote" or the power chord snap of "Bring What You Bring."

But don't get me wrong: TPC still play with enough fire to burn any house down. As Atmosphere once put it, "This city is not big enough to hold their energy." True to form, the band worked themselves into a frenzy more than a few times, immediately establishing a rapport with the small, supportive crowd, and using the relaxed setting as an opportunity to cut loose.

Tired of pimping Crusades for over a year, the band played a healthy dose of material from 2004’s Mazatlan, including an absolutely searing take on “Davico.” At the end of their set, they even let St. Olaf junior Brendan Golle join them onstage for an impromptu freestyle. After the crowd practically forced Golle onstage, TPC launched into Jay-Z's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" so Brendan could, as Allen put it, spit fire.

But most exciting for longtime fans was the opportunity to hear the band test out some new material, all of which will be on the band's next record. The new songs, while obviously rough in spots, showed tremendous promise. The group hopes to go back into the studio this spring, with an eye on preparing another record for release before the New Year.

"We’ve written four songs and we'll hopefully record with Joe Mabbot in late spring." Aaron Mader, the group's other guitarist, said. "We've got a lot of ideas right now. This last time around, we got to make our big, larger-than-life rock record. Now we want to take that sound we found on Crusades and fuse it with the poppier stuff we've been writing.”

Judging by the band's weighty performance to a smattering of St. Olaf students on a snowy Tuesday night, any TPC release will continue to deserve our complete and unbridled attention.

(Pete Farrell)

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