Thursday night, the Soft Pack played at the Bowery Ballroom, a far cry from their San Diego homes on the West Coast. Having been over a year since their last performance in New York City, the band made sure to deliver a show the crowd would remember them by, and not just for the band’s name.
Quickly checking the last of its equipment as crowd members filled the main room, the Soft Pack jumped straight into their set. Opening with the slow “Bound To Fall,” off the recently released Strapped, singer Matt Lamkin crooned to the audience against the soft glow of the kaleidoscope lights on the stage wall. After putting the audience in a daze, the band woke the crowd members up as they jumped into the fast-paced, garage-y “Saratoga.” With the opening song’s mental haze lifted, a handful of the audience members began jumping around and head banging.
Seeing this as a positive sign, the band continued with the upbeat tempo, playing “What They Say.” During the guitar solo, it became an episode of The Three Stooges meets indie rock. Lamkin tangled his mic’s cord around guitarist Matty McLoughlin’s Rickenbacher’s neck, as well as his actual neck. Hoping not to interrupt the solo, Lamkin intricately removed the cord segment by segment and McLoughlin finished the song, nailing every note of the solo even with the added distraction.
Considering that the first few songs of the set were straight off the new record, it was safe to say that the set would include highlights from Strapped. The experimental “Bobby Brown” and “Oxford Ave.’s” baritone saxophone and synthesizer melodies resonated throughout the venue beautifully, possibly even better than the album’s versions. After jamming through the ‘70s psychedelia-influenced “Everything I Know,” Lamkin picked up his beer can and humorously attempted to be an ironic sales rep. Claiming to have discovered the particular brand of beer the other day on tour in New Orleans, he said it’s “now the only beer I crave.”
From the topic of beer, the band segued into “Tallboy.” Off to the side during “Tallboy,” there was an entertaining spectacle of fanboyism: a large, grizzly-bearded hardcore fan fist pumping throughout the entire song with all his strength while singing along at the top of his lungs “T-A-L-L-B-O-Y.”
The show was really enjoyable, but one fan caused a few problems post-”Tallboy.” This guy had one too many tallboys for the night and decided, with his friends’ mocking support, to begin a one-man mosh pit near the front of the crowd and harassed one particular female audience member on a few occasions. During the dance-happy tune “Answer To Yourself,” he threw his drunk friend on stage hairs away from crashing into Lamkin and the mic. Fortunately, this wasn’t enough to kill the Soft Pack’s drive. Brushing the stage bomb off, the band finished their main set with “Captain Ace,” laying down whatever they had left in a last ditch effort to reach the solemn crowd in the back of the venue.
After the ups and downs of the show, the band left to hear the crowd roar for the encore. Unfortunately, the crowd’s reaction was somewhat lukewarm. After a minute or two, some of the fans upfront put an extra heap of effort into their cheers and the band rushed out to play “Parasites.” During the instrumental outro, Lamkin said goodnight early and headed for the exit, but not before smacking bassist David Lantzman’s butt on the way out.
All photos by Gloria Lee.