all words: Finch Fulton
all photos: Franz Mahr
Saturday night, the RX Bandits took their rib shaking, hard punk style to the eager crowd at the 9:30 Club. The RX Bandits (say it with me, ARE EX BANDITS) are pumping out their final shows, as their 17 year career together comes to a close in mid-August. The crowd came to engage the Bandits, recognizing songs after the first few notes, singing along, and occasionally sending a mosher over their heads and into the waiting hands of the security guards.
The band, formerly known as the Pharmaceutical Bandits, opened their set to an eager, undulating crowd who had no problem providing lyrics and choruses where frontman Matt Embree left openings. Embree was joined as usual by Christopher Tsagakis on the drums, who has been with the band since 1995, and who performs with Embree in the side project The Sound of Animals Fighting. Rounding out the four piece group were Joseph Troy on bass and Steve Choi on guitar, keyboard, vocals and who bookended the show as the second drummer.
Worthy in their opening performance was Zechs Marquise, who seem to be heavily influenced by soundtracks from the Sega Genesis. Their up-tempo, high energy performance is well suited for a show which started while the sun was still forcing its way through the blocked windows behind the second level bar of the 9:30 Club. The drummer had only to flick his magnificent beard to bring roars of approval from the early arrivals. Unfortunately, while their slightly sinister sound built the sweet anticipation of a horror movie, it might be lacking the memorable melodies needed to push the band into greater prominence.
Maps & Atlases followed with a strong set emphasizing vocals, lead guitar and drums. Frontman Dave Davison wears his hair like Jesus, his high-top sneakers like we’re in the 90’s, and his vocals like the Kings of Leon’s Anthony Caleb Followill.
Drummer Chris Hainey had a plethora of percussionary pieces at his disposal, including a bongo, xylophone, tamborine and woodblock to go along with the regular drum set. Bassist Shiraz Dada may be the most talented in the band, having also served as the sound engineer in early albums and an occasional DJ in side projects, however Davison and Hainey stole the show as Dada and Erin Elders (guitar) mostly faded into their support roles. The band’s sound at times is favorably similar to Minus the Bear.
The intensity of the crowd that packed the floor of the 9:30 Club picked up noticeably when the RX Bandits took to the stage. The crowd was certainly part of the show, and Embree was more than happy to toy with and tease his loyal following.
After a beginning featuring the duel drummers, RXB shifted into a wordless jam which featured almost painfully high pitched keyboard throughout. They followed with “Consequesntial Apathy” which sent the crowd into a frothing frenzy. At this point, the front half of the crowd had become nearly completely sexually gentrified, with only a couple of females left standing. Other notable songs were “My Lonesome Only Friend (Don Pedro),” “Dinna-Dawg (And the Inevitable Onset of Lunacy),” and “Decrescendo.”
The Bandits made the crowd restless in their demands for an encore, which featured “Nothing’s Sacred,” “Only for the Night” (twice) and “Frying in Jam”…and the obligatory Matt Embree rant about Fox News and a United Nations bill because as he noted, “We ARE in D.C.”