The opening band, Believers served up a fine mix of Vampire Weekend and the Strokes-inspired pop-rock tunes. With two swirling guitars, a drummer, a standing percussionist and a highly ornamented bass, they cruised through seven or eight syncopated dance numbers that led all in attendance in a strong foot tap.
Although a young band from Columbia, Mo. Believers' songs had a mature and practiced sound. Along with the bright "Contra" guitars and the afro-beat bass, the lead singer adds in his gentle bass croon to provide listeners with an easy one-way ticket to dance land. They sure made a believer out of me.
Next on stage was former St. Louis denizen Justin Kinkel-Schuster of Water Liars. If anything on this night was definite, it was that dancing time had stopped abruptly and intense self-reflection and longing had taken its place.
Justin's howl-at-the-moon vocals and his overdriven semi-hollow body cut right to the heart and exposed the truth and honesty that sometimes hurts. His songs -- delivered solo without bandmate Andrew Bryant -- were filled with heartbreak and infinite regret as told through the lyrics "I'll have no more excuses for the way I treated you" in the death-bed song "On the Day." From start to finish the ride was an emotional one, perfectly preparing the crowd for the looming sadness about to ensue.
The headliners from Michigan, Frontier Ruckus, put on a near perfect show. While echoing sounds of '90s college alt-rock and sentiments of the Cure, their banjo-and-guitar-driven songs created a warmth that was perfect for the chilly fall night waiting outside of the venue walls. Their veteran status showed continually throughout the performance and quieted any hushed attempts to criticize.
The boys from the North Country played a polished set of tunes spanning five years, four albums and another full-length set to be released on January 29 of 2013. The new album, "Eternity of Dimming, consisting of 20 tracks, is a nostalgic paean for things that are lost for many of us -- childhood, the '90s, starter jackets, rug burns and birthday parties at Little Ceaser's.
They also rocked well-knowns "Mona and Emmy", "Ontario" and "Silverfishes" from their earlier alt-Americana catalogue. All of these songs featured musical backing as beautiful as the heart-straining words of lead singer and lead writer Matthew Milia, who at any point during the show, gripped by the emotion, would drop down to his knees with his Epiphone guitar by his side.
Matthew's lyrics were somewhat difficult to crack into upon first listen but they command a second listen, and a third and a fourth. His voice honest combined with his colorful language to paint an intimate picture of his hometown and his years before this one.
The show peaked with the final three tunes: Frontier Ruckus stripped down, unplugged their gear and migrated to the middle of the floor. During the folky, night-inspired "Dark Autumn Hour" the venue floor became a campfire pit and the audience old friends that grew up together. Matthew led the crowd in a series of hushed sing-along "ohs" and head bobs while banjo, guitar and melodica rang out and feet stomped in unison.