*Slightly humorous Troubadour slipup*
Last night at the Miniature Tigers/ Freelance Whales show at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, I learned three very important things. 1) I want to marry a dapper, adorable indie rocker; 2) It is indeed possible to die of happiness (and I can say that from experience, since I died of happiness at least 5 times last night); And 3) There’s nothing quite like the magic of an intimate underground concert. While I’ve been to my fair share of amazing concerts over the years, last night’s show might take the cake as the best one yet.
Let me start off my review of the show by saying that I’m maybe the biggest fan of Miniature Tigers ever. And by maybe, I mean that I definitely am. They got their start in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, and I’ve been following them since the early days when they were playing in small venues near my house. Road trips in my family undoubtedly include their first album Tell It to the Volcano, and I’m constantly walking around the 5Cs shaking my booty to their sassy tunes. Basically, I’m in love.
After making the long trek into LA during rush hour, we finally arrived at the Troubadour, which hilariously boasted on its sign that “Freelance Whales and Miniature Whales” would be playing that evening. Outside of the venue, we hopped in line and managed to secure a spot right at the front of the queue. After a long hour of waiting, the bouncer finally allowed us to enter the club, and my friend and I got a spot right at the front of the stage. I was literally so close that I could’ve reached up and touched the musicians. It was amazing. As we waited for Miniature Tigers to make their way onto the stage, I glanced nonchalantly over my shoulder, only to see CHARLIE BRAND—lead singer of Miniature Tigers and my musical idol—waiting suavely by the bar. After a few minutes of “Oh my God, should I talk to him? I mean, he’s right there. But I don’t want to bother him. Ahhh!” I finally worked up the courage to approach him. Shyly making my way through the crowd, I walked up to him and said hello. While I had been unbelievably scared to talk to him, he was—not surprisingly—incredibly nice and friendly. We spent a few minutes casually chatting about music, past Miniature Tigers concerts, and Phoenix. Then, feeling more comfortable, I asked him if he would sign my ticket and . . . wait for it . . . he did! I walked away floating on cloud nine and returned to my place at the front of the stage.
Finally coming on stage, the band kicked off their set with one of my favorite songs off their new album, F O R T R E S S, entitled “Tropical Birds,” an upbeat danceable melody with irresistible “ooh ooh’s” and a beat that makes you want to shake yo’ thang like it’s nobody’s business. The band played some other great numbers off of F O R T R E S S, including the mystical song, “Coyote Enchantment,” and the instant crowd pleaser, “Rock N’ Roll Mountain Troll.” They also took down the lights, creating a super amazing and mellow ambiance, and played my favorite track off their new album, “Dark Tower.” I thought just then that the night couldn’t get any better: I had met Charlie Brand, I was standing less than a foot away from him at the front of the stage, and I was in one of the best cities in the U.S. hearing my favorite musicians play an incredible set. But then it got better.
After a brief lull in the set, I heard the unmistakable, catchy synthesizer beats of F O R T R E S S’s single, “Gold Skull,” produced by Chris Chu of the Morning Benders. My feet already a’tappin’ like Gene Kelly, I was preparing whip out some sassy dance moves when all of the sudden, something amazing caught my eye. And by something, I mean the sight of Charlie Brand stepping off stage in order to belt out the song from down on the floor with the audience. Moving around the floor singing, Charlie had impromptu dance parties with various adoring fans, causing even the most cool-conscious hipsters to wiggle their feet with excitement. As he made his way over to where I was dancing, my stomach filled with butterflies. And then, the most incredible event of all time happened. Right as the chorus of the song was beginning, Charlie thrust the microphone toward me, letting me belt out the lyrics! Somehow I managed to form words and sang the song at the top of my lungs. To say the least, it was definitely one of the most incredible moments of my life.
The rest of the set was equally amazing. The band played a fairly even mix of songs off of both their albums, including classics such as “Cannibal Queen” and “Dino Damage.” While the crowd was initially a bit stiff, they soon gave in to the infectious beats; by the time Miniature Tigers played their last song, even the most serious audience members were feeling the groove. To say the least, it was an incredible show, as always.
About 45 minutes later, Freelance Whales took the stage, causing the audience to erupt into anticipatory cheers. Composed of irresistibly cute (and alarmingly stylish!) male musicians, as well as the most amazing female musician who I spent the whole set looking at and thinking, “Can I please be as cool as she is when I grow up?” the band modestly took the stage, seeming excited, nervous, and incredibly honored to be playing for a sold-out crowd. The energy in the room was palpable, and the show certainly didn’t disappoint.
The band laid down an absolutely phenomenal set, playing all of my favorite songs off of their new album Weathervanes. The song “Hannah” was met by an eruption of joyous shouts, and by the chorus, every person in the audience was belting out the lyrics at the top of their lungs. Songs like “Generator ^ First Floor” and “Location” were met with equal levels of excitement, inciting foot-tapping, swaying, and a strong urge to sing along within most people in the crowd. Unlike most concerts, I can’t think of a single bad song in the set—it was simply amazing.
Interestingly, one of the band members, Chuck Criss, is the brother of Darren Criss, the newest addition to the cast of the hit series Glee who is best known for his rendition of “Teenage Dream” on a recent episode of the show. To the amazement of the adoring crowd, Darren made a surprise appearance and played the mandolin on stage while singing to some of the band’s biggest hits. It was definitely a treat.
Overall, I was extremely impressed by the band’s overarching talent. Each band member seemed to play an infinite number of instruments, weaving together intricate vocal harmonies all at the same time. But what was truly a delight for me was to experience the palpable joy in the room, coming from both the band members and the audience alike. There is nothing quite like watching a group of people doing something that they clearly love with all their hearts, a sight that I can only describe as magical and profoundly moving. Looking back, last night’s concert was possibly one of the best nights of my life, and every time that I think of it, I can’t stop my lips from curling into a huge smile. While I may be biased, there is something truly special about underground music—this concert, to be sure, proved that for me once and for all.
Reviewed by Edie Adams
Photos by Melissa Grace Klose