As the midway point of 2012 rapidly approaches, it becomes more and more clear which bands stand out and are going to be the ones remembered in this, the final year of everything, and which ones are simply going to fall by the wayside…much like the totality of humanity. For me, one band that not only easily stands out, but sits at the top of the list is Hospitality. Given shape in the forge of intelligent, witty songwriting and an ancient miasma of old school NYC punk/new wave truth, Hospitality has taken the lessons that bands like Television, Blondie and Talking Heads laid down, and brought the gospel back to the masses - surely a sign that the end times are upon us.
I kid but marginally so. It’s true that Hospitality is by far my favorite of the crop of bands that have “debuted” (they actually have been around since 2008) or released new records in 2012, but after their performance at The Black Cat last Thursday, which was the second time I’ve seen them in as many months, I have to say – it’s getting a little frustrating to be a Hospitality fan. To be clear, they delivered a GREAT performance, there just seems to be something…missing.
Performed live, songs like “Friends”, “The Right Profession” and even “Betty Wang” give off a livewire stutter and spark that simply can’t be captured on record. Their songs aren’t so much performed as they are shot out of a canon, and sonically are about as exciting as it gets. But for all of the subtle sneers and snarky twitches that singer Amber Papini throws out, things that should be connecting with the audience, the foursome continues to come off as a bit awkward when it’s all said and done.
Granted, I want to be seeing this band while I drink beers with David Byrne and Tom Veralaine in a dank dark CBGB’s circa 1976, and in every performance and every note that Hospitality plays the potential for some approximation of that is highly evident, and therein lies the frustration. When they broke into “The Birthday” early in the set, it was impossible not to picture some sweaty hipper-than-thou dance party going on, threatening to run off the rails and out the door at any minute. What we got was the audience simply staring in polite acceptance as if to say “Yes. I acknowledge that you are playing that song I like. Thanks for that.” That bewildering disconnect can mostly be attributed to the rather small audience in attendance Thursday night – but not all of it.
It is to be expected that Hospitality doesn’t have the same stage presence as a band who has been performing for 20 years, but they maybe need to pay it a little extra attention between now and then. And I say that out of nothing but love for this band because the vision, at least my vision, of what this band will eventually become, is pretty fucking glorious. So can I really be blamed for being a little bit impatient with them?
All the minor criticism aside, I stand unashamed in my adoration of Hospitality. The set they delivered on Thursday wasn’t perfect but it wasn't supposed to be. Besides being sweaty and loud, great music…great rock, is supposed to be loose. It’s supposed to be inventive. It plays with pre-supposed conventions breaks down our expectations to leave us stuck humming a song in our heads for days for no apparent reason. Hospitality manages to do all of those things. And whether it’s the slow build of “Argonauts” or the slight hint at some grander sonic exploration that “Eighth Avenue” provides, what Hospitality does best, and without fail, is satisfy, and Thursday night's performance was no exception.
So maybe you would do better to simply ignore the past six hundred or so odd words and stick with the intended review of the show, which read “Hospitality: FUCK YEA!” Because really, if the world is headed for it's Decemberic demise this year, I can't think of a better way to spend our remaining months than watching a damn good rock band making some damn good rock n roll.