Live Concert Review: ON AN ON, 4.25.13

On An On

My first visit to the RSR Bar left me impressed. The sprawling complex is divided into two sections; one had the feel of a more traditional college bar with pool tables and TVs, and the other a more intimate setting with the stage tucked away past the bar. (My only complaint was that the stage-side bar only had a generic American lager on tap while the other bar had a slightly better selection.)

First up was Heavy Looks, a self-proclaimed power pop band from Madison. Thursday night was their first time playing out together, but other than stating as much, their self-consciousness on stage was the only outward sign. Musically they were tight and sounded like they had been playing together for much longer. While Rosalind Greiert and Dirk Gunderson split vocal duties, I found Rosalind’s voice possessed rich tones that added to the songs, while Dirk’s was unconventional and more distracting.  Most songs ended with a flourish from the drummer Eric Wermedal, which began to seem more like a nervous tic than intentional. The band had sold me on themselves until the final song where one particular line stood out: “Twenty-five years of being bored to tears.” This band was not bored to tears, not in the least.  Check out this new Madison band when you can.

Sat. Nite Duets, a rock band from Milwaukee, took the stage next. They could be summed up in one phrase: Pavement wrapped in affectation with a dash of Tom Waits. As derisive as that might sound, they pulled it off. They rocked the stage for most of their set, the only misstep occurring with technical difficulties as one member asked if there was a guitar doctor in the house. An awkward minute or two of mostly silence ensued as the guitarist wrestled with his instrument, with only a line or two of stage banter to keep the audience engaged. They finished strongly, however, despite partaking in one of my personal band pet peeves, the switching of instruments mid-set.

While the two opening acts had talent, they also possessed the stage presence of young bands finding their group personality. ON AN ON, however, were used to being on stage and performing for crowds, even a small crowd such as the one Thursday night. Before the set I had been wary of ON AN ON’s ability to translate their epic, electronic-heavy songs into a live setting, but those fears proved unfounded and the acoustics of the RSR stage allowed them to shine. They opened with “Hunter,” the song that had been my introduction to the band and proceeded to play a tight set with little banter between songs. The rhythm section set a driving foundation for the dreamy guitars, synths, and haunting vocals. My companion, who had been prepared to leave after a few songs to study for finals, stayed riveted for the entire set, and I was left wanting more by the time they closed with two of my favorites, “Ghosts” and “Every Song.” It was all I could do not to immediately put their album, Give In, on the stereo to fill that need, or to stow away with their gear to see them play Friday in the Twin Cities. Toward the end of the set, frontman Nate Eiesland quipped about the small crowd, saying it was like a basement, “sweaty and uncomfortable in a good way.” There aren’t too many small crowds left in their future.

–Ashlie Crooks

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