It’s a rare occurrence these days — the NYC debut of a UK band that almost no one attends. But such was the case with Switches stateside bow at the Annex last night.
Maybe if it hadn’t been a Sunday night. Or if they had gone on before Midnight. Or had a better name. It certainly wasn’t because they suck. Switches’ debut, Heart Tuned to D.E.A.D., is hard not to like, sort of like Supergrass with a Queen/Sweet jones and a wicked sense of humor. It’s one of those albums where almost any song could be released as a single. America will have to wait until September to hear it, but Switches are giving us a taste as openers for the Fratelli’s summer tour and the occasional headling show.
Last night’s show was a Tarts of Pleasure production, with a Bar Mitzvah theme, complete with balloons, ’80s dance pop (think Footloose soundtrack), and glo-stick pendants. Also: free vodka. And free admittance. My Bar Mitzvah was nothing like this.* With all the "free" I couldn’t really grumble too much about the late start, though I’m pretty sure the band spent longer setting up than they did actually playing. And by the time they hit the stage, many of the partygoers (would just like to note that many the girls there dressed like Jamie Gertz in 16 Candles) had left the dancefloor for the second floor, so it was me, my friend Heather, the guitarist’s girlfriend and the Tarts for the most part. At first at least.
I’m also pretty sure we were the only ones who had actually heard them before. But Switches songs are so catchy it hardly matters. It took a couple numbers for the band to find their groove, and singer Matt Bishop (who looks like a lost Jarman brother) seemed bored or tired. But by the second song more people headed downstairs and the band started having fun and so did we. It was a fine, short set, six songs I think, including "Snakes and Ladders," "Every Second Counts," "Message from Yuz," and singles "Lay Down the Law," "Lovin’ It" and "Drama Queen." Unfortunately, they didn’t play either of my favorites: "Stepkids in Love" or "Coming Down."
I was curious to see how they’d pull off those Queen-esque harmonies live. The answer lay with their touring keyboardist who not only added another voice to the mix, but I’m pretty sure one of his two mikes was put through a harmonizer. It worked for me. Hopefully they’ll come back for a headlining club tour where they’ll play on a Thursday or Friday where I don’t have to worry so much about dragging myself into work the next day.
Switches tour dates (opening for the Fratellis… good double bill):
Jul 18 Roseland Ball Room, New York
Jul 20 Wiggins Waterfront Park, Camden
Jul 21 Empire State Plaza, Albany
Jul 22 Sonar, Baltimore
Jul 23 Paradise Rock Club, Boston
Jul 28 Fuji Rock Festival, Naeba
Jul 29 Varsity Theater, Minneapolis
Jul 30 Pabst Theater, Milwaukee
Jul 31 Newport Music Hall, Columbus
Aug 03 Lollapalooza, Chicago
Aug 04 Cambridge Room, Cleveland
Aug 05 Smalls, Detroit
Aug 07 Mod Club, Toronto, Ontario
Aug 09 Richards On Richards, Vancouver, BC
Aug 10 Chop Suey, Seattle
Aug 11 Doug Fir Lounge, Portland
Aug 13 Spaceland, Los Angeles
Aug 14 Cinespace, Los Angeles
Aug 16 Popscene, San Francisco
*Probably because I was raised Presbyterian.