Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Checks Are Your New Favorite Band

Tuesday night was to be the final full night in the Big Smoke, Auckland City. Once again plans never came to pass and 4 of us were left gathered on couches looking at each other. Looking at the TV. Looking at the paper. Thinking, hmmmm... What's happening on the first Tuesday that school's back in session?


At 8:56 someone fishes a torn flyer from the bottom of a jacket pocket. The Checks and The Mint Chicks: Kings Arms Tavern, Tuesday night, 9:00. I caught the end of a great set by The Checks at a free outdoor concert a couple weeks ago and happen to have it on good word that the Mint Chicks blow minds with thier live shows, so into a car we pile and off to the show we go.
At top speed we reach the King's Arms across town in incredible time, just as The Checks are taking the stage. Here I feel comfortable. These last few months I've had a great time out with the lads, but the norm around these parts are polished dance clubs filled with Gucci-clad trust funders and annoying blond bimbos. If I wasn't with friends and comfortable with my lack of dance skills, the whole Auckland scene would be depressing. As it is, I tend to feel out of place in a Clash t-shirt and jeans when surrounded by people dripping with money. So when we walk into the tiny, slightly grimy Kings Arms I begin to feel much better. I'm not so out of place in my Portland gear and shaved head. Things are looking up. The amps click on, guitars plug in and the last night in Auckland is underway.

I have this feeling about The Checks. I realized halfway through the first song that it would be criminal... absolutely criminal if these guys don't find some level of success in the States and beyond. Imagine the lovechild of Jet and Franz Ferdinand, then give them the balls of AC/DC, the stagecraft of The Rolling Stones and the boundless energy of The Hives, there you have The Checks. Very well crafted songs, but beyond that, these guys realy Feel It. They get rolling and the whole crowd can Feel It, because that's the kind of energy they put through the amps. The singer dances and freaks all over himself while the guitarists compete in some kind of unjudged dance battle, all the while the lead guitar is absolutely WAILING on 5 strings, broken steel be damned, with some kind of Detroit Rock City face-melting solo that would make Jack Black break down and weep. To make things worse, these guys are my age. Damn. The Checks. Remember that.

The only minus was the shortness of the set, maybe half an hour and they were out. Just enough to get the crowd frothy and amped and out the door they go to make way for the Mint Chicks.

Wasn't sure what to think when 4 guys in matching gold vinyl jackets strolled on stage. I guess I was expecting, well, chicks. To say that they launched into thier set is a blatant understatement. From the word go (there actually wasn't time for the word go, it was just ZANG!! and they're off) I was floored. If you can't get amped and crazy with the Mint Chicks on stage, you're too old or too sad, it's hopeless and you should give up. This is a new kind of spaztic energy, a bizzare hour and a half uncompromising freakout of four guys who really want to knock your socks off and know exactly how to get it done. They're not angry. They're not mean. They just play extremely fast with the amps turned up to 11, and they're not slowing down for anybody. This isn't punk or metal, it's rock for robots who like to drive real fast and break things. It's a minute of maximum effort and then a heart-stopping pause before launching right back to a bazillion miles an hour. I think everyone in the Kings Arms lost it for a while, went completely off the scales with the singer as he thrashed around with us, threatening to never stop and never slow down until one of us keeled over from a heart attack or plain exhastion. When they finally ran out of songs, unplugged and dissapeared, I was a bit lost. No one knew how much time had gone by, it was just a fizzing sea of excited people, dripping sweat and ready for a big glass of water. The Mint Chicks are musical Danger... in matching gold jackets.

Like I said before, I think the Checks will make it. I think they'll get big and a handfull of us will be able to say "yeah I was there, I saw them back in the day." I think they have the musical talent and the showmanship to go big. The Mint Chicks will always have a special place in my heart, and they could certainly make it to the States, but they're too uncompromising. Too off in thier own psychotic world for commercial success. The Checks are musical meat and potatoes, The Mint Chicks are crack and cheez-whiz. Simple as that.

Great night, great show, full of danger and intrigue. A great exclamation point on an already excellent trip. A fitting end. DT

p.s. go here now http://felbers.net/mt/ or else...

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