Live Review: Obits at the Bell House

Obits celebrated the unveiling their third album, Beds & Bugs, with a rocking record release show at The Bell House on the 21st of September. I was excited leading up to the gig since I hadn’t seen Obits perform before, despite being a fan since their debut, 2009’s I Blame You. I also had yet to visit The Bell House, which I’d kept hearing good things about. Neither disappointed.

Opening the show was a guitar and drum duo called All Nines, who served up a spirited dose of no-nonsense rock and roll. They played facing each other, which made for an interesting dynamic, each taking turns on lead vocals. I could see them being perfectly suited to a smaller DIY venue. Their bandcamp page simply lists Anthony as guitars/vocals with Ted on drums, Anthony bears somewhat of a resemblance to Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tuffnell, though Ted did not spontaneously combust, nor did they cover Lick My Love Pump.

I’d seen the next band, Prince Rupert’s Drops, before at the Knitting Factory back in May. Their record, Run Slow, is a lovely slab of 60’s tinged psychedelic rock which you should definitely check out via Beyond Beyond is Beyond records. Their roster is filled out by a bunch of fine psych bands. As live performers, however, they seem to be playing within themselves somewhat, and I felt a barrier between the band and the audience, though they can iron that out. The songs are there though, so they’re one up on most.

Obits entered the fray a little after 11pm and began with the Sohrab Habibion-led Shift Operator from 2011’s Moody, Standard and Poor; it’s a brilliantly understated opener which leaves you wondering why he doesn’t contribute more lead songs. Rick Froberg then took his usual position as frontman, kicking things off with Taste the Diff, which is Obits at their best, with a jerking riff backed by a wirey lead guitar line, while Froberg barks out his distinct voice. A quick-fire double of lead single Spun Out and It’s Sick, which could well be the best song on the album, mimics the opening trio of songs from the new release. 

We heard eleven of the record’s thirteen songs over the course of the show, with only This Must Be Done and Machines not getting an outing. Alexis Fleisig showed off his drum chops on Operation Bikini, switching from thumping toms to rim hits and keeping a song together that would fall off the rails in lesser hands.

Greg Simpson effortlessly glued the band together on his Rickenbacker bass (always a joy to see and hear.) Much is made of the twin guitars of Froberg and Habibion, but Simpson is critical to the band’s sound. Spending most of the gig sporting a wry grin, he doesn’t stray too far from his central position but his performance elicits a persona that is just too damn cool.

Habibion, on the other hand, lurches around the stage, obviously having a blast as each staccato attack on his guitar hits you like a jab to the face.

The main set was brought to a close with Receptor, before the band returned for an encore which included some choice cuts from their debut album, including Widow of My Dreams, Talking to the Dog and Light Sweet Crude, whilst also treating us to Refund, their 7″ single release from last year. The audience bounced… politely, fists were pumped in the air triumphantly. The night was rounded off with I Want Resultswhich is exactly what we all got and what they have delivered in the shape of Beds & Bugs. Obits put on a fantastic show and will leave many an audience in their wake. Comparisons can easily be made to their previous bands or contemporaries, but sod that for a game of soldiers, this is four guys picking up their instruments and having a good time, and you will too.

Bed & Bugs is out now on Sub Pop, so buy it.

Setlist:

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