On northsoutheastwest’s MySpace page, the band states that its name spawned from “the inspirations and influences of each member being gathered from a wide variety of directions to form one unique passionate sound.”Throughout its lackluster coffeehouse performance last Friday, I kept thinking back to this description — specifically, their use of the word “unique.” Performing a bland set of repetitive, aggressive rock songs, “unique” couldn’t have been further from the truth.
The members of northsoutheastwest are unsigned, but have been touring in support of their self-released EP “The Islands Are Still Sinking,” which came out in May 2006.
Even though I had listened to each of the four samples on their MySpace a handful of times prior to the show, I had a difficult time recognizing any of those songs live due to the fact that they each carried basically the same formula.
The guitarist would play a short intro, and then the rest of the band would join in with thundering power chords as singer Brian Tombari added his emo-tinged vocals. Most of the songs were extremely loud from beginning to end, and Tombari displayed little range with his vocals. This lack of change in dynamics caused each song to blend into the next.
These problems would be somewhat forgivable if their music was well-written, or at least a worthy example of the hard-rock genre. Instead, the songs were devoid of creativity, with the band failing to do anything to distinguish themselves from a generic Top 40 hard-rock band.
They were also lacking in terms of stage presence, saying little to engage the crowd between songs besides a failed attempt to get people to dance up front.
Despite my qualms with their music, I cannot argue with northsoutheastwest’s claim that they have a “passionate sound.”
They performed with confidence, exhibiting that they are at least competent musicians. Still, it was hard to judge how well they were capable of playing due to the simplicity of their songs and the lack of any sort of guitar solos or extended instrumental passages.
I should note that the music they play is far removed from what I typically enjoy listening to. Someone who likes hard rock more than I do might have at least found them entertaining. But to these ears, there was little to appreciate.
The mediocrity of the performance was perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that the coffeehouse was considerably more packed for Lawrence’s own Escalator Dance Party, who opened the show.
In addition to possessing more memorable songs, the members of Escalator Dance Party were able to evoke a far more positive response from the crowd.
It also appeared that I was not alone in my lack of enjoyment of the northsoutheastwest set: Many of those who had stayed for the start of their performance had filtered out by the end.
According to its MySpace, the band is playing its “final show” November 27. I assume this means they are breaking up afterwards. If their performance in the coffeehouse is any indication, that is not a major loss.