From Olympic Hopefuls to just Hopefuls..
Usually when a band has a hit song on MTV’s The OC, is voted best MN band by City Pages, and is signed by a record label they end up building a name for themselves. The Hopefuls did that, and got sued by the U.S. Olympic Committee for nothing else than their name.
You may remember the band better by its original name, The Olympic Hopefuls. With legal action from the USOC (No, not the United States of Orange County) they were forced to drop the trademarked word “Olympic” from their name this past year. Guitarist and singer Darren Jackson talked of the situation saying that it, “was like someone telling me I couldn't live in my house anymore." Their album, The Fuses Refuse To Burn, had no problems lighting up indie charts and many accolades were given to the band. It was indie pop at its finest with splashes of Weezer and electronic accents sprinkled on top like garnish.
Now a bit later the band is on tour and made a stop in Duluth last Friday, May 12th at the Tap Room. From the sounds of people around town and fellow journalists The Hopefuls were the band to see. A quote about the band from even a famous source like MSNBC.com said, “…their act is even better when experienced live, and they are genuinely a spectacle to witness."
So how could anyone go wrong? Well, the show in Duluth was short, fairly low-keyed, and lacked an audience. We probably cannot hold it against the band that they were traveling up a week after Homegrown, but the show lacked something. When you listen to the Fuses album it blows you away with synthesized effects and very catchy tunes. Live at the Tap Room the band was all over the place. The first few songs they played were ho-hum until about the fifth song. On that number the dance floor filled and the energy shot through the roof. But on the next song it was back to bland and only four people stayed up front. After another few ho-hum ditties the band would play a very catchy song and the crowd would come back, only to be repeated like before with basic tunes. So to say the show was like waves of hit songs or a “spectacle” would be like the weather lately, foggy. Also contributing to this analysis was that the band only played one set and packed everything up at 1 am.
For months now Minneapolis bands have been headling at Twin Port bars with local acts opening. Friday was no exception with The Alrights opening for The Hopefuls. With an early start at around 10 The Tap Room had a decent crowd. Many decorated dancers, and even a few screamers were in attendance. The Alrights have been working out a bunch of new material live over the past few months and are building up for an album release. Toby Churchill, singer, guitarist and keyboardist told me that their 1 am slot at Luce’ for Homegrown was a blast. He said, “It was the first time our band has had a crowd surfer.” They were followed that night by venerable favs, Trampled By Turtles. That audience trickled over to the Tap Room on Friday with renewed vigor. You could feel in the room that The Alrights are building up in popularity with about 50 people dancing trough virtually every song. Songs dealing with evolution and other topics are intellectually pure, but also have a touch of darkness and contemplation corrupting. Toby, Danny, and Chavo reel it all in to a pop format of catchy songs. They are defiantly still on the rise, and climbing very fast with their audience.
That might be why The Hopefuls stood out, when the Alrights played it was many hits with a large dancing audience while The Hopefuls played for a handful of people. It is always hard for a band to be a “spectacle” when you have an audience of less than 50 people in a venue. It also reveals a lot about a band. Did they look at it like a blown show, or that the opener’s audience dipped on them? Only they know, but they did play with enthusiasm and great delivery. The single set never grabbed you though, only a few songs that were mixed in. They have been on tour for sometime, and maybe the weather up here got to them or me. They did entertain and when they played a hit song it was extremely catchy. It is always hard to judge a band from one live show that lasted about an hour. Funny that a band called The Alrights had a larger audience than The Hopefuls, leaving one to wonder, is it better to be Alright or Hopeful?