Live Review: The Temper Trap with Penguin Prison at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 31st March 2012

By on Wednesday, 11th April 2012 at 2:00 pm

The Temper Trap made a triumphant return to DC after two years when they co-headlined with Florence and the Machine. Sadly for the Temper Trap, that night was Florence Welch’s second-ever performance in the United States, and it overshadowed the Aussie band. (Read the review of that gig here). This gig was nothing like that.

Supporting them was New York-based Penguin Prison. An electro-pop band, I was curious as to the combination of them and the Temper Trap, but it worked really quite well. I saw Penguin Prison play a year and a half ago and can say their performance has greatly improved. Drawing from the band’s 2011 self-titled debut album, Chris Glover had the crowd dancing even at the obscenely early hour of 7 PM. Glover was bold enough to go out in the crowd several times, much to the enthusiasm of a small cadre of fans. Nothing warms my heart more than when the support act has a couple of die-hard fans in the crowd who sing every word. Penguin Prison are making the rounds in town, as they are returning to the very same club in support of Miike Snow in 2 months and a headline gig the following month.

Making a short run through the United States in anticipation of their self-titled, sophomore effort to be released on 21 May, the Temper Trap took the stage to a sold out crowd who was ready to hear them rock the place. With the scarcity of these pre-release dates, there were punters from far and wide at the show that night, anxious to hear the new material. The band did not disappoint. Of their 13-song set, 8 songs were new. Lead singer Dougy Mandagi still has all the moves, and is still making the girls scream “I love you, Dougy!” from mid-room. Truth be known, I felt like he had more stage presence than 2 years ago, but I would expect that after touring the world.

Included in the new songs were ‘Rabbit Hole’, ‘Need Your Love’ (the first single that I reviewed here), ‘The Sea is Calling’, ‘Trembling Hands’, and ‘Happiness’. This last song lamented “Whatever it is, whatever is past, this isn’t happiness, it leaves me feeling less, this isn’t happiness.” Both ‘The Sea is Calling’ and ‘Trembling Hands’ were gripping and had bass so strong it resonated throughout my entire body, causing even my vision to shake. Of course ‘Drum Song’ is still as great as ever (sans the water poured on the top of Mandagi’s drum head) and gathered the crowd together in one big tribal dance to close out the regular set. I must say I am still curious about the spate of lead singers sporting drums up front with them. Couldn’t say who was first, but there sure are a lot of them now.

Two birthday girls, with very dedicated friends, got the attention of Mandagi and bassist Jonathon Aherne before the final song and the band obligingly had everyone sing happy birthday “to Kim and Liz”. I was near one of them, and despite her visible embarrassment, it clearly made her night. They closed out the night with popular single ‘Sweet Disposition’ had the crowd swelling with love for the band. Mandagi left the stage saying they were coming back later in the year. Despite the lack of a DC date on the current summer schedule, the crowd took that as a positive sign that it would be added later.

After the cut: set lists.

Penguin Prison Set List:
Golden Train
The Worse it Gets
Something I’m Not
A Funny Thing
Don’t Fuck with My Money
Fair Warning

The Temper Trap Set List:
Need Your Love
Love Lost
The Sea is Calling
Rabbit Hole
Trembling Hands
Science of Fear
Drum Song
I’m Gonna Wait
Sweet Disposition

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