Miniature Tigers at Modified Arts

By Joseph Golfen

It’s not often that you get to see a great band from their humble beginnings. But anyone who was at the Modified Arts on Sunday got that chance as local band Miniature Tigers took to the stage, sending wonderful indie rock echoing through the walls of the tiny theater and out into the hot city streets.

Sunday’s show was originally intended to kick off the band’s first national tour, which had been pushed back until October, but that didn’t stop the band from kicking out the great new songs off their new album Tell It to the Volcano, which will be released on Tuesday.

Lead singer and guitarist Charlie Brand says he’s very excited about the album and the upcoming tour, which will find Miniature Tigers playing their way up the East coast and eventually landing at the highly coveted College Media Journal music festival in New York City. Brand admits he doesn’t know what to expect from life on the road, having only played in Phoenix and Los Angeles, but he’s looking forward to finding out.

“I don’t really know what it’s going to be like or how people are going to react,” says the friendly, soft-spoken Brand. “But I’m really looking forward to going and just playing music every night, because that’s exactly what I want to be doing.”

Miniature Tigers grew out of some jam sessions between Brand and band mate Rick Schaier while they were both living in LA. Brand has since moved back to Phoenix, but the two bounce back and forth playing shows in both cities and building a dedicated following with their sunny indie rock. A trip to the group’s Myspace page finds fans from Texas, Minnesota and North Carolina begging them to come play a show in their town.

“It’s really wild how our music is out there already. We don’t really know how it got out there but it’s very exciting to see that so many people enjoy it,” says Brand, who seems genuinely surprised at the enthusiastic response his music has received.

It’s probably not as surprising to the crowd that gathered at the Modified. Joined by two friends on guitarist and bass, Brand and Schairer crafted irresistible pop songs in the vein of Ben Kweller, Albert Hammond Jr. and Teenage Fanclub, which had the audience smiling and clapping along.

Playing Tell it to the Volcano in its entirety, Miniature Tigers sounded like a seasoned band, not one that’s just beginning to tour. All the pieces of the complex pop songs fit together just right, making them stick in your head after only one listen, but leaving enough room of the lovable discordance that lets you know the band’s having a good time too.

And they defiantly were enjoying themselves, laughing back and forth and encouraging the audience to clap along with nearly every song.

“To clap along with this one, just try to remember Lou Bega,” announced Schairer, who seemed to smile the whole show and was at one point playing the drums with a wooden sword.

“Everybody ‘Mambo #5,’ ok?” he added with a laugh.

After the band’s keyboard stopped working, they dove even more into the clap along feel of the show as Brand invited opening act Stefan Dollak to come play along. Dollak was Brand’s high school music teacher and he opened the show by playing medieval melodies on a series of unusual instruments, including the lute and the hurley gurley.

With Dollak pounding away on a Taber drum, the members of Miniature Tigers smiled even more as they stomped out boyish, poppy tunes like “Cannibal Queen,” “The Wolf” and “Annie Oakley.” The crowd cheered, clapped, sang and in some cases ran around the room as the music played. When the group tried to say goodnight, they were besieged by cries for one more song.

“Thank you so much,” said Brand, as he stepped back up the mike. He again seemed truly shocked and appreciative that people enjoyed his music, even after the great show he had just put on. “You just made our night and thank you so much of coming out to see us.”

The Miniature Tigers will be kicking off their East Coast tour in late October, though dates have not been finalized. After playing the CMJ Festival, the band hopes to make it back to do a West Coast tour. With songs and shows like these, this band won’t stay small for long.