|The Temper Trap lead singer, Dougy Mandagi|
The Temper Trap
@ House of Blues San Diego
June 13th, 2012
I sat on this review for a week because Crocodiles were still on tour with The Temper Trap, and while the intent of this review is neither to insult The Temper Trap NOR to claim that people associated directly with the band (publicists, label execs, super fans) would read this insignificant blog, I am cognizant that merely putting "The Temper Trap" and "live review" or "show review" might summon the modern music industry equivalent of a Genie, "Google Reader Alert, I summon thee."
First there was, of couse, the venue, House of Blues San Diego. Since the show last week I've wracked my brain in an attempt to be "fair" to what is basically a corporate constructed personality masquerading as a live music venue. While I was there, the comparison that most sprang to mind was the decor in the Haunted Mansion ride in Disneyland, but with blues singers instead of ghosts.
In defense of the House of Blues San Diego, the following observations are appropriate: The sold-out all ages crowd was managed effectively- the environment felt perfectly save for the pre-teens(!) who were in attendance with their Dads or whomever. Next, the bartender working the side bar was just incredibly good at her job. I can honestly say she was the most efficient bartender I had seen in my entire life. It was objectively impressive considering she was by herself in the side-room handling the between sets rush. So she was amazing and whomever hired her deserves credit. Finally, the "crowd"- a very specific to the House of Blues environment- was super excited to be out and "partying" at 830 PM on a Wednesday night.
Look, I'm all in favor of early set times, but this is still live rock and roll we're talking about, not a show at Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater in Balboa Park. The Audience was about as close to the "general audience" as you are likely to see outside of a show at an Arena or Fairgrounds. Just people- people who like hits- and dulcet alt rock tones. Judging from the fact that the show was old out before the doors open, The Temper Trap could immediately step up to a larger venue. In fact, I would be interested to know just how many people they could draw in a city like Los Angeles or New York. 5000? Certainly 1000-1500.
Now, I fully expected this Audience to be a 'bad' audience, but I was totally wrong. I watched a sea of sorority girls and Gaslamp bros doing their best to rock out to Crocodiles. They weren't wildly enthusiastic, but seriously, the fuck do you expect? The Casbah crowd isn't wildly enthusiastic about anything and it they don't show up 800 strong on a Wednesday evening at 8 PM. Honestly, during this set I finally understood why a band like Crocodiles would benefit from opening up for a band The Temper Trap- it's because the Audience is excited about something- now- granted that they are excited about The Temper Trap, but they are in what you would call a receptive state for the transmission of new ideas.
Considering how hard I've been on the House of Blues San Diego over the entire life of this blog, it pains me to say this, but I could see why a band would want to play a House of Blues show- especially in some of their Southern Markets: Atlanta, Houston and Dallas to name three. I know there are alternatives in all three places, but you could go from Atlanta to San Diego in a week and play five House of Blues show, sell them all out at 25-35 a pop and make a boat load. House of Blues San Diego capacity for a show is maybe 800 or 1000? That is a lot of scratch for a show that runs 8-10 PM. Sure it only works that way for the headlining band, but I can at least see why you would want to be the headlining band.
In between sets Crocodiles worked the floor like the proper gentlemen that they are. It looks like most of the people were in the friends and family category, but while I waited my turn to talk with them, I swear I saw two sorority girls- general audience members- giggle and then they went over and got a picture taken with one of the Crocodiles band members. I mean, I assume a moment like that is like witnessing the birth of a "fan." Does she go home and buy the album on vinyl? Probably not.
The Temper Trap took the stage to what I would call an "appreciative murmur." The band they most resemble is Snow Patrol. Calling them "the Australian Snow Patrol" is entirely fair and I would fully cop to having said that. Australian-ness is manifested through the Indonesian surname of lead singer Dougy Mandagi(as suppose to the "British-ness" of Snow Patrol. While I would describe the rest of The Temper Trap as, "coolly professional," Mandagi has clear star quality. Now again, we are talking star quality equivalent to a Chris Martin, but man, Chris Martin has sold a shit-ton of records, so that comparison means something.
For me, the key moment in the rise of The Temper Trap to Snow Patrol level success was the ability of their US Label, Columbia Records, to get their single, Sweet Disposition on multiple radio formats last year: Both adult contemporary, top 40 and rock/alt rock stations. Whether you are a hip-hop Artist or an Australian rock band treading in the well-worn path of Coldplay or Snow Patrol, you just can't do it better then getting your single on more then one type of radio format at one time.
And really, that's the biggest difference between The Temper Trap and Crocodiles: The Temper Trap wrote a song three years ago that was good enough to not only draw the attention of Columbia Records, but convinced Columbia Records to put enough weight behind Sweet Disposition to convince multiple radio formats to play it at the same time. That is both expensive and simply hard to accomplish from an aesthetic stand point.
After you get the song to that level, the Audience really starts paying attention to the underlying Artist, creating the Audience demand for a sold-out Wednesday night show at the House of Blues San Diego. Tickets were 35 USD! We're talking 30 g's a night.
I certainly don't have anything to say about the three songs I saw from The Temper Trap other then to note that they are not opening with their hit, that the crowd fucking loved them, and that they sound like Snow Patrol. It felt like going to the first local edition of a popular chain eatery opening in your area. All the fixtures are fresh, and people are excited to be trying something new. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing to be. Especially if you are going to be flying in from Australia, you want to be the musical equivalent of IKEA or you are bloody well wasting your time.
Anyways, I'm sure that if The Temper Trap can write another multiple-format radio hit they will do great in America, but they need another one because the first song is so old. And I wish them the best of luck in their endeavor. My interest in this show was spurred almost entirely by the presence of the opening band, and they were such a small, small part of the larger The Temper Trap phenomenon, I was like a West Virginian snake handler walking into a Synagogue in West Los Angeles.