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Live Review: We Were Promised Jetpacks with Bear Hands and Royal Bangs, Black Cat, Washington DC – 27th October 2011

By on Monday, 31st October 2011 at 2:00 pm

Scottish band We Were Promised Jetpacks have played in DC twice before, but this was their largest headlining show to date. Along with them were two bands they were very familiar with – bands they’ve toured with before, but on the other side of the country: Bear Hands from New York and Royal Bangs from Texas. I thought they were unusual choices, given that both of these bands play with keyboards and synths, whereas We Were Promised Jetpacks has the basic rock ‘n’ roll line-up of guitars, bass, and drums. The Jetpacks, known for their loud and rowdy shows, released their second album, ‘In the Pit of the Stomach’, at the start of October on Fat Cat, and this North American tour was the first time they’ve played the new material stateside. (You can read John’s review of the new album here.)

Bear Hands played first. (You can read guitarist Dylan Rau’s answers to our Quickfire Questions here.) It has been 3 years since I heard them on Lammo’s radio programme but I had not had a chance to see them live yet. Surprisingly (for a Black Cat show anyway), they started at their appointed set time of 8:30. Bear Hands is an indie band that I’d best describe as a mix of MGMT (psych rock with wiggly guitars) and Friendly Fires (tropicalia with maracas and lots of drums), just slightly less dancey and maybe a bit more headbang-y? There was one fan there that was an obvious fan of all three bands; he knew all the songs and shouted “I fucking love you!” and “you’re fucking awesome!” at regular intervals throughout all three bands’ performances. Their last song was ‘What a Drag’, the single from 2008 that I’m sure you’ve heard by now. “Long nails… “ wailed *name of lead singer*, leading all the diehard Bear Hands fans down the front to move and groove to their rhythms; it was a great end to an all too short set.


In general, the genre “noise rock” scares me: it conjures up long-haired indie kids that don’t play in tune. Royal Bangs, then, were a surprising exception to the rule. I have been wracking my brain trying to think of how to describe their sound. For starters though, let me begin with something unrelated to their sound, they’re four beardy guys that wear plaid. Thankfully, they sound nothing like Kings of Leon. When they’ve got the keyboards out, they sound like Procol Harum, or maybe Billy Joel if he was cooler. But a couple of their ‘rocking like we just don’t care’ kind of numbers reminded me a bit of Led Zeppelin, particularly the way lead singer screamed his head off. Their drummer Chris Rusk gets the gold star for the hardest working musician of the night; he attacked his drum kit with ferocity, yet the way he was smiling as he did it, you just know he was having the time of his life.

The almost full Black Cat floor waited in anticipation for their heroes We Were Promised Jetpacks. As should probably be expected, songs from their 2008 debut ‘These Four Walls’ received a raucous reception, with a loud roar as the first guitar notes of ‘Keep Warm’, ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’ (video below) and ‘These Four Walls’ were played. This band has toured a lot since the first time I saw them open on a Fat Cat North American tour of 2009 featuring the coheadlining and relative Fat Cat elders Brakes and the Twilight Sad, but the Jetpacks show no sign of compromising on or apologising for their loudness. While marked maturity is not evident on all of ‘In the Pit of the Stomach’, the mostly lyricless ‘Act on Impulse’ was a punishing wall of sound that really has to be seen and heard in person to be believed.


Perhaps it’s because I hadn’t seen a gig at the Cat since April (nearly 7 months prior for the Pains of Being Pure at Heart) but I forgot how great it was to be mere metres away from a guy really going for it on his guitar. Now that I play bass, I was in complete awe watching Sean Smith. The first time I bought guitar picks, I asked which thickness I should get. The bloke at the counter says, “well, it depends on how you plan on attacking”. ‘Attacking’ is exactly what Smith and guitarist Michael Palmer did all night: their motto appeared to be play it fast, play it loud, and play it with feeling.

Highlights of the night included the new single ‘Medicine’ (watch the Video of the Moment here) and ‘Ships’. ‘Pear Tree’, with the lyrics you be the lighthouse / and I’ll be the road…” and other you/me comparisons, was unexpected Scottish soul. Maybe this is an indication of future direction”? Their closing song, ‘Thunder and Lightning‘, was a quiet (for the Jetpacks) and introspective way to end the night.

After the cut: WWPJ set list and more photos.
Continue reading Live Review: We Were Promised Jetpacks with Bear Hands and Royal Bangs, Black Cat, Washington DC – 27th October 2011


Quickfire Questions #18: Dylan Rau of Bear Hands

By on Thursday, 8th September 2011 at 12:00 pm

The singer / guitarist / keyboardist of Bear Hands, Dylan Rau, was kind of enough to answer our Quickfire Questions, and his answers are below. Read on.

he band will be going on tour with We Were Promised Jetpacks in the autumn here in DC – not sure if they’re supporting WWPJ in Britain.

1. What song is your earliest memory?

‘Walk Like an Egyptian’ by The Bangles. My pops was always into female singers and this was pretty early on. He was a big Alanis Morrisette fan too. He’s a gynecologist.

2. What was your favourite song as a child?

‘Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand’ by Primitive Radio Gods. Lots of alternative one hit wonders I guess. I used to bootleg songs off the radio with a tape recorder. I’m fucking old (26).

3. What song makes you laugh?

‘Fake Patois’ by Das Racist.

4. What song makes you cry?

‘Parasite’ by Nick Drake.

5. What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love (it’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
I get down to ‘Heartbeats’ by The Knife I guess. ‘Motivation’ by Kelly Rowland with Weezy also very sexy but no personal experience.

6. What song makes you think of being upset/angry? Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
Oh dear. I don’t really like to feel angry; it makes me anxious. I mean, spite is fun and all, but real rage is just overwhelming. That being said, ‘War Pigs’ by (Black) Sabbath is dope. ‘Raining in Blood’ by Slayer. ‘The Times They Are A-Changing” by Dylan, because they didn’t.

7. Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?
‘Cry Baby Cry’ by the Beatles.

8. Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Camus, Fanon, whoever writes the Gawker Jersey Shore recaps.

9. If you hadn’t become a musician, what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
Walking around and looking for coins in parking lots.

10. If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why?
‘Ready to Die’ by the Notorious B.I.G.


Video of the Moment #530: Bear Hands

By on Friday, 22nd July 2011 at 6:00 pm

I was so glad to hear that I will get a chance to see New York’s Bear Hands on the same bill with We Were Promised Jetpacks this autumn in America. (YES.) It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Bear Hands, and here is the video for ‘High Society’, heavy with a sexy, thudding bass line and awesome vocals. It’s from their album ‘Burning Bush Supper Club’, their debut album released late last year. Its MTV split screens is almost a throwback to the ’80s, when split screens were still the height of technology. And none of that herky-jerky stuff you see on MTV these days…



MP3 (and More!) of the Day #272: Bear Hands

By on Monday, 13th December 2010 at 10:00 am

Whenever I think of Bear Hands from New York, I think of their superb song ‘What a Drag’, with its thudding drums and tropical vibe. So I was really pleased to learn their debut album, ‘Burning Bush Supper Club’, was recently released on Cantora Records.

And I was even more pleased to be given the green light to give away a song from the new album, ‘Crime Pays’. They filmed a promo video for the song as well, so I thought, the more the merrier, right? The band’s guitarist Ted Feldman had this to say about the video:

Andrei Bowden Schwartz directed the ‘Crime Pays’ video from a concept that my filmmaker friend Sam Shainberg and I had birthed one day over Vietnamese sandwiches. Andrei was the Director of Photography for Bear Hands’ first music video, ‘What a Drag.’ He and I have a production company called Matchbook Pictures that made this video happen, with Dan Cerruti producing. We had a lot of help from both friends and strangers. It took four days to shoot, all around New York City, where Sam, Andrei, Dan, Dorian and I grew up throwing molotov cocktails into windows and picking up prostitutes.

You can listen and download the song and watch the video below.

MP3: Bear Hands – Crime Pays



‘Burning Bush Supper Club’ from Bear Hands is available now.


Hockey, Passion Pit and Bear Hands / February 2009 UK Tour

By on Tuesday, 16th December 2008 at 5:32 pm

Bear Hands (side)Hockey, Passion Pit (pictured top) and Bear Hands (pictured right) have all announced that they’re all off on tour together early next year.

The three bands will share the bill for all dates on the tour apart from at the London Cargo (February 23), where Passion Pit will not play.

Tickets are on sale now, priced at £7 for all dates except for London which is £8.50 a ticket.

Tuesday 17th February 2009 – Brighton Audio (Ticketweb, See Tickets)
Thursday 19th February 2009 – Oxford Bullingdon Arms (See Tickets, WeGotTickets)
Friday 20th February 2009 – Bristol Cooler (See Tickets)
Monday 23rd February 2009 – London Cargo (Ticketweb, See Tickets)
Tuesday 24th February 2009 – Birmingham O2 Academy 3 (Ticketweb, See Tickets)
Wednesday 25th February 2009 – Manchester Ruby Lounge (See Tickets)
Thursday 26th February 2009 – Glasgow Captain’s Rest (Ticketweb)
Friday 27th February 2009 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club (See Tickets)


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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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