Features | Concerts

The Rapture

By Peter Hepburn | 10 December 2003

OK kids, this is for all of you who didn't get the memo the first time around. Dancepunk, by its very name, implies something more than the traditional arm-cross-head-nod. I'm not saying that when you're at a Mogwai concert, or seeing the Drive-by Truckers, or even Ted Leo, that I expect you to do anything more than stand there in your trendy jackets and large glasses and look glum. But when the goddamn Rapture come to town I expect you to be dancing along with me and looking like an idiot, like me, the whole time. The kids at the Junior Senior/Electric Six concert knew what to do, and the Hot Hot Heat fans had the basic idea, but you losers who paid $14 to go see the El Guapo and The Rapture obviously didn't have a clue. There were 10 or 15 of us dancing our asses off the whole time, but the vast majority of you seemed to think that moving yourselves in anyway more than the head bob would result in instant death. How wrong you poor bastards are.

El Guapo's opening set was pretty good, although they got an even more reserved response than the Rapture. El Guapo are seen by many to be the last great DC band, now that Ted Leo has moved to New Jersey and the Dismemberment Plan have moved to that proverbial elephant graveyard in the sky. I would disagree, seeing as Fugazi and Dischord record do still call the District of Columbia home, but El Guapo are certainly an interesting group. They delivered an energetic set, especially their drummer/bassist who seemed to be in a constant state of motion. Their songs did have the unfortunate habit of all blending together, and they all seemed to finish with one of their keyboardists hitting the "distort" button and fading out.

The Rapture themselves took the stage and drove through a terrific set. Their albums have been interesting and worth a listen or two, but dancepunk acts are about the live experience, and that's where the Rapture excel. Lead singer/guitarist Luke Jenner is one of the most charismatic frontmen I've seen this year, and that includes Travis Morrison. He can scream with the best of them, but he was also able to tone it down and sing quite well for "Open Up Your Heart" (yeah, you wouldn't know it from the album version, but it does require some singing). Gabriel Andruzzi's saxophone added an element to the music that doesn't come across nearly as much on the albums. Matt Safer's bass lines were consistently funky and Vito Roccoforte alternated between perfectly lazy beats and attack drumming.

New aspects of the music really become clear in the live performance. The four are able to experiment with their sound quite effectively, while still remaining extremely tight and maintaining their ability to turn on a dime. They have a great stage prescence, keeping up a steady banter with the audience. Jenner, who's looking almost frighteningly similar to Stephen Malkmus these days, stepped off the stage midway through "I Need Your Love" and walked through the audience with his mic as a path cleared. He walked up, put his arm around my shoulder, and serenaded me for about a minute (yeah, he really did and I swear that has nothing to do with the glowing terms which I'm using to describe the show).

"Sister Savior" was a highlight of the first set, with Roccoforte's drumming dead on and laying down a perfect complement to Jenner's wails. Jenner was able to coordinate a call and response chorus for one of the songs with Safer on lead vocals, which got the audience a bit more involved. The second and final song of the encore, club favorite "House of Jealous Lovers," finally convinced almost everyone to dance. Andruzzi went for the cowbell while Safer's thick bass lines rocked the house. It was impossible not to be screaming "HOUSE OF! / JEALOUS LOVERS!" along with Jenner the entire time.

This was a really excellent show. The Black Cat, one of DC's two good concert venues (the other being the famed 9:30 Club), provided a perfect venue for the band. Although they had to deal with a relatively unresponsive audience, the Rapture were able to pull off a great set and showed that live music is most definitely the way to go for dancepunk. They captured and expanded on the vitality of their studio recordings and were one of the more engaging groups I've seen this year, bucking the unfortunate trend of bands ignoring their audience. If you get a chance to see them soon, take it. And remember to dance.