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By Jeb Gavin

Rubblebucket played the early show this past Friday night at U Street Music Hall, and I didn’t hate their set. Perhaps that’s too strong of a non-response. I hadn’t expected to hate their set, or expected to love it- it’s just I didn’t know what I was walking into.

I can, however briefly, recall when Rubblebucket was the Rubblebucket Orchestra. Loved the horns, loved the poly-rhythms, loved the whimsy back in my younger days (three years ago.) They sounded like they were inspired by “This Must Be The Place” and only “This Must Be The Place.” Somewhere along the way I stopped listening. Three or four years later, the band has turned into a bid to recreate the feel of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse on stage, and it’s not a bad thing, it’s just saccharine-sweet and twee beyond all recognition.

That’s not to say they don’t sound great. Still love the horns, still love the poly-rhythms They’ve developed their sound such that they now sound like a modern Save Ferris, all indie dance rock and call and response. I’m sure if you’re already on board it sounds like the best damn thing ever, but standing outside the fan base it sounds like the Susquehanna River- inches deep even if it is a mile wide.

There are “let’s put on a show” theatrics- the painted plastic drop cloth background reflecting pastel and neon lights like an underwater cave. Everyone with their own style, but it’s so distinct and so disparate, it feels like affectation. The audience participation, the horns running through the crowd and occasionally riding on shoulders under giant white sheets, it’s like a less focused, less crazy version of Peelander-Z but without the focus.

I guess it’s just weird watching someone else’s favorite band and not getting it.