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David Lindquist, firstname.lastname@example.org
This assorted holiday sampler was not brought to you by Whitman’s.
Instead, radio station Alt 103.3 bundled AJR, Chvrches and the Struts for Thursday’s “The Night Alt 103.3 Stole Xmas” show at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
That means three divergent acts on the “alternative” music spectrum shared the bill. Before the retro-rocking Struts opened the show, Van Halen’s “Everybody Wants Some” played on the house PA. Before synthpop headliner Chvrches arrived, the audience heard 1989 Neneh Cherry hit “Buffalo Stance.”
It added up to a balanced, enjoyable night of performances.
The show did not, however, supply evidence of the music’s broad appeal. Perhaps 3,000 people made up the audience at the 6,800-capacity arena.
Alt 103.3 ranked 10th among area radio stations in October’s Nielsen Audio audience ratings, sandwiched between contemporary Christian station WKLU-FM (101.9) at No. 9 and public media’s WFYI-FM (90.1) at No. 11.
And “The Night Alt 103.3 Stole Xmas” happened the same day Maroon 5’s Adam Levine shared the following thoughts on music:
“Rock music is nowhere, really. I don’t know where it is. If it’s around, no one’s invited me to the party.”
On the other hand, a few minutes with Struts vocalist Luke Spiller might change Levine’s opinion.
A band-by-band recap of Thursday’s show:
Scotland’s Chvrches delivered the ideal of an electronic-music performance. Clean, crisp and fast-moving arrangements were paired to an effective light show. Lauren Mayberry’s voice served as a potent weapon slicing through the dense synth attack.
“We Sink,” from debut 2013 album “The Bones Of What You Believe,” filled the room with seemingly mismatched keyboard lines that Mayberry reconciled as melodic victory. “Miracle,” a recent single from the album “Love Is Dead,” flirted with goth from the song’s time-tested opening line: “Ask me no questions, I will tell you no lies.”
Credit Mayberry for brushing up on three pieces of Indiana trivia, but her mentions of Wonder Bread, John Dillinger and John Mellencamp are an odd summation of our state.
It’s difficult to not frame AJR in the context of Twenty One Pilots. Both acts blur genre lines, specialize in confessional lyrics and dabble in rapping without committing to the craft. Yet there’s no denying the pop skills of brothers Adam, Jack and Ryan Met.
“Sober Up” (featuring Rivers Cuomo as studio guest and Ryan Met capably filling that vocal role Thursday) and “Weak” come across as effortless crowd-pleasers. To show it’s not as easy as it sounds, AJR presented a mini songwriting clinic on the building blocks of current single “Burn the House Down.”
If the popularity of Queen movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” is going to help any modern band, smart money would be on the Struts of the English Midlands. They’re a 1970s time machine, making fearless and fun music that always goes for the big-hook jugular. It doesn’t hurt that Luke Spiller looks somewhat like Freddie Mercury, not to mention Spiller’s true-believer rock ‘n’ spirit in the tradition of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”
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Call IndyStar reporter David Lindquist at 317-444-6404. Follow him on Twitter: @317Lindquist.
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