Groupies and more
Guitar pop darlings, The Shins, rolled through SLC last night, playing at the University in what amounted to be a terrible venue, but decent show. But hey, it’s been a while since they’ve come through, so, I suppose we should all be grateful for that.
Except, they’re rock stars.
Hell, even they acknowledged it. Frontman James Mercer mentioned that every other time the band had passed through the City of Salt, they performed at Kilby Court, a venerable beacon in the intermountain independent music scene, but which holds roughly three and a half people simultaneously. Four, if you get familiar.
It’s not that I didn’t expect the rock-stardom. I know what’s happened to these guys since the release of Garden State and its accompanying soundtrack. I’ve taken the many, many requests during my radio show and all. But come on! I was not expecting to hear girls scream when Mercer makes eye contact with the crowd. I mean, we’re not dealing with Jonathan, Joey, Donnie, Jordan and Danny here. Or are we?
Oh, oh oh oh / The right stuff – er, sorry.
Anyway, what is most interesting to me about the Shins rise to success is it can really be traced to one song. Quite literally. I suppose this is not really atypical in the world of music – pop anyway – but when it comes to bands that have been together for eight years or so and have made their way via an independent label (albeit a large indie label), it just seems a little odd. See, the song “New Slang,” one of two on the Garden State SDTRK drove the masses to run out and purchase Chutes too narrow, a pretty good record all in all, but one that does not actually feature the song “New Slang.” Ironical? It gets better. That one song not only brought them to the screaming-girl/college-touring scene, but was also the reason the Shins were ever signed in the first place.
Five years back, when opening up for Modest Mouse, a SubPop records guru saw them and invited the band to submit a song for the label’s now defunct Singles Club. Which song did the Shins submit? You got it. “New Slang” went out, the SubPoppers enjoyed and a year later, the Portland outfit (originally from Albuquerque) had a full-length on the label called Oh Inverted World (a better record than Chutes too narrow).
In Garden State, Natalie Portman’s character, Sam, introduces “New Slang” by saying, “This one song, it’ll change your life.” Indeed it did for the Shins.
Incidentally, the show was pretty good, despite the strange venue and crowd mix. New Zealanders, The Brunettes, opened the night up and any band that makes that much use of brass and woodwind instruments in an indie pop set – not to mention face masks – is a friend of mine. Also, local artist Leia Bell has a poster for the evening and of course, it's lovely. Buy it here.