Needless to say, last Friday’s We Fought the Big One at the Marx was a little unusual. The long-running post-punk/DIY indie rock dj party has presented live shows before at the Velvet Lounge (including DC’s first Veronica Falls show, Beach Fossils, and Screen Vinyl Image), but this marked the first occasion We Fought the Big One djs Brandon Grover and Rick Taylor hosted a live performance at their monthly Marx event itself.
It was well after midnight by the time the tables in front of one of the Marx Café’s large windows were moved out and the band set up to start playing. More than a little fatigued from having to deal with all the issues surrounding the morning’s break-in, the band nonetheless got into the spirit of the evening as they strummed their way through several highlights from each of their three albums.
What distinguishes The Beets from their DIY garage contemporaries quickly became apparent. Just about every song in the band’s catalog centers around some fairly straight-forward but catchy chord patterns that stick in your ear like Crazy Glue and a group sing-a-long led by Wauters. Rarely does the band kick into high gear ala the frequently uptempo garage rock of Thee Oh Sees, Fresh & Onlys or Sic Alps. And unlike another quadrant of the contemporary DIY garage scene, The Beets have zero interest in resuscitating the ghost of C86 (just a hunch: the band members are more likely to think of C86 as a map code than a specific musical era).
The sheer shambolic nature of the band’s guitar clang can easily disguise Wauters’ penchant for tackling weighty subjects with tongue-in-cheek charm. During one of the songs The Beets played (“Doing As I Do”), Wauters diffused the seriousness of mortality when he sang, “Don’t be afraid; you will not die, and if you die, whatever.” While one could read that as black-humored fatalism, it could just as easily be interpreted as the band saying, “Hey, try not to stress about things in life so much—it’s not worth worrying about things you can’t control.” It’s no wonder the band seemed to take the break-in incident in stride.
The band’s idiosyncratic blend of easy, bop-your-head tempos, and catchy melodies played with a fair amount of…shall I say looseness…was well-received. Of course, if Wauters’ guitar strums and Mori’s pounding drums occasionally fell out of alignment, the audience didn’t seem to mind. They seemed genuinely appreciative the band was willing to play such a non-traditional show, and the fact that the band was there to tough it out following the break-in meant people were rooting for them.
Wauters’ selections included “Repetition” by The Fall, “Queen Bitch” by David Bowie, “Down on the Street” by The Stooges and a track from 60s French garage punk Jacques Dutronc. Garcia picked “Making Plans for Nigel” by XTC, “Brighton Beach” by NYC garage-pop peers The Beachniks, “Danny Boy” by The Ramones, and the Syd Barrett-Pink Floyd classic “Bike.” Mori preferred to bypass the djing altogether, but kept looking for records by the Television Personalities, to no avail unfortunately.