Ratatat at The Venue Scottsdale Last Night

September 25, 2010
The Venue Scottsdale

When does an electronic rock concert make a person feel like Danny Glover's irritable geezer cop in Lethal Weapon? The answer: When the concert in question is Saturday's all-ages Ratatat show at the Venue of Scottsdale, and the person in question is older than some of the parents who drove up and deposited minivan-loads of excited teenagers on the curb, with a certain urgency that reminded me of Vietnam chopper pilots delivering fresh recruits to the bush.

Admittedly, this has nothing to do with the concert itself. Mike Stroud and Evan Mast - the two Brooklyn soundcraft whizzes who joined forces in 2001 to give the world arguably its premier guitar-based house act - totally killed it. But as someone who prefers not to exchange body-sweat with 15-year-old girls - a guy could get arrested for that, right? - I still found myself silently muttering Glover's immortal refrain: "I'm too old for this shit."

It's not that I dislike age-diverse crowds. That Ratatat can mobilize both the Gen X and Millennial music-dollar speaks to their unique appeal. The problem is that these kids are messy partiers, and Ratatat is first-and-foremost a party band.

Things got chippy early on, when a shaggy young Stevie Nicks lookalike who "might" have been 21 staked out a large section of the Venue's east-side bar area by drunkenly careening into anybody who happened to wander within three feet of her. I'm fairly certain she would have been ejected from the premises if not for the half-dozen or so college-age bucks who formed a perimeter around her person, creating a sort of geometric bumper-table dampening effect that limited the carnage.

It was easy to get distracted by such tomfoolery (how's that for an old man word?) because the opening acts - DOM and Bobby Birdman - weren't exactly captivating. The former is a surf-rock four-piece from Massachusetts; if they have any catchy hooks, I didn't hear them. The latter is dude from L.A. who seemed to be having a grand old time making flatulence on a keyboard.

As the kids say: "Whatevs." We came to see Mast and Stroud, and the intensity of the show - which started late at 11 p.m.-ish - more than justified waiting in the two-block line outside the Venue. (Not sure if the performance sold out; if not, it surely came close.)

Framed by two, transparent teleprompter-style projection screens and a rear screen that showcased Ratatat's formidable collection of weird-ass music videos, Mast and Stroud afforded the audience plenty of eye-candy as they launched into tracks from their most recent album LP4, including the melodramatic but danceable "Drugs" and the Polynesian reverie "Mahalo."

Bundled into one sweaty, bouncing mass, the stage-front crowd ate up all 90 minutes of the one-encore set, but saved its most energetic approbations for the band's biggest hits, including "Wildcat," the infectious 2006 single from Classics that I always thought would make stellar theme music for some hot, 40-something Scottsdale divorcee. "Rawr," indeed.

The crowd also showed its age, frequently, in the form of errant glow-sticks, inconsiderate bustling and all the out-of-proportion exuberance you might expect from underage fans with a hall-pass for the night. Then again, where else would they go? Rick Springfield at Talking Stick?
They're too young for that shit.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias: Saw Ratatat at Coachella in 2007. Fell in love their spooky Mellotron effects and incendiary guitar riffs.
The Crowd: I might have been the oldest fan there. But not the baldest, so that's something.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Ohmygod, this place is sooo nice, right?"

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