I've had many friends, over the years, tell me that they don't get Art Brut. My response is always: go see them live. There's something about the band's energy and sense of humor that really shines through in a live performance — hearing the record again after a live show, it always sounds infinitely better. The reason why is that Art Brut have remarkable presence — and presence onstage is half of making music.
"We love playing in Philadelphia!" announces vocalist Eddie Argos, clad in a pink button-up, Saturday night at Johnny Brenda's. "We actually played one of our favorite shows just outside of Philadelphia a few years ago, at a party in Haverford." He pauses, and surveys the crowd. "I have to say…I really don't understand you Americans. You're all like 'oh no, we're not really like this; we're having a frat party ironically.' Meanwhile, I'm doing keg stands…I drink ironically all the time. It's not a problem unless you admit it is!"
The crowd laughs, and Argos grins. Such anecdotes are Argos's trademark, and part of what makes the shaggy-haired Brit so memorable — well, that, and his feisty brand of tongue-in-cheek rock.
"Are you ready Art Brut?" asks Argos of the fivesome before every number, before shouting out a song title ("Moving to L.A.!" "Emily Kane!" "Summer Job!") and launching into a no-holes-barred rendition. Known for their wry lyrics, thrashing melodies and garage-rock sensibilities, the fivesome did not disappoint, offering well-tuned guitar licks and spot-on harmonies.
Their set list included a healthy mix of new and old tracks (off Bang, Bang Rock n' Roll, It's a Little Bit Complicated and the recently-released Art Brut vs. Satan), although early singles ("My little brother"; "Bad weekend") were clear crowd favorites. For their encore, the band kicked things off with an energy-driven rendition of "Formed a band" and the crowd went wild — clapping, dancing, fist-pumping and screaming lyrics — until the entire venue was filled with sweat and energy.
Pitchfork darlings Cymbals Eat Guitars (named "Best New Music" back in March) opened, kicking things off with a capricious set of sprawling rock anthems that grew and morphed organically, from noisy art-rock to explosive pop and back again. Vocalist/guitarist Joseph D'Agostino (aka Joseph Ferocious) stole the show here, spitting out lyrics ferociously, lips pressed against the mic, sweat glistening on his forehead. In 45 minutes, the band played only 7 or 8 songs, but on one was complaining – it was easy to get lost in their larger-than-life concoctions.