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Monday, April 7, 2008

The 88 : Show Review

by Aaron Pompey
photos by M'Lou Elkins
7.13.07 - Troubadour - Los Angeles

If L.A. bands sometimes have one shameless advantage over even the most talented groups coming out of music hotspots like Seattle, Minneapolis, or New York, it is their proximity to the entertainment industry. TV networks have become increasingly reliant on local music connoisseurs like Jason Eldredge to help round out the emotional force of shows like Six Feet Under with popular music like Death Cab For Cutie's "Transatlanticism". Eldredge, the current host of KCRW's Accidental Rhythm, has worked on shows like Six Feet Under and The Closer as a music coordinator, crafting soundtracks for the shows' unique visual landscapes.

And certainly in film. That added layer of popular music was critical to pet projects like High Fidelity - which featured a 15-song pop music soundtrack, along with 40-something more songs dispersed throughout the film - and the interminable, over-inflated Garden State mixtape-slash-soundtrack.

While some of these bands are well known, most play gig after under-the-radar gig. Outside of a relatively established local L.A. fan base, The 88 seem to have made themselves a ubiquitous presence in the few years since releasing their first LP in June 2003. Songs like "Good Feeling," "Hide Another Mistake," "How Good It Can Be," and "Hard To Be You" have appeared in television (How I Met Your Mother, Grey's Anatomy and The O.C), film (Failure to Launch, Surviving Christmas, You, Me, and Dupree), and in various commercials (Target, Sears).

The 88's July 13 show at the Troubadour brought out the local fanatics. Gracefully inhabiting their post-Weezer world of hooks and irony, The 88 is not a band that enjoys the kind of name recognition afforded to Chris Martin's band, or Dave Grohl's spinoff outfit. Still, people in fly-over states probably know the band's songs from one soundtrack or another. And in L.A., they definitely know the band. Maybe that's all that matters for now.

The Troub show (introduced by Orange County band Satisfaction) rolled out an image change for the quartet, too. Abandoning their casual style, keyboardist Adam Merring, bassist Todd O'Keefe, singer/guitarist Keith Slettedahl, and drummer Anthony Zimmitti now appear onstage as something akin to four different versions of lovesick office cynic Jim Halpert.

The songs are catchy and the fans sing along rabidly. After opening with "Go Go Go," "All 'Cause of You," and "Like You Do," the set drew equally from Kind of Light and their 2005 follow-up, Over and Over. Between songs, the audience screamed out requests. Frontman Slettedahl just smiled coyly, glanced down at the 8½ x 11 set list duct-taped to the stage floor, and continued with the prescribed schedule.

The audience didn't mind. There's hardly a song they don't love. And that they didn't hear before that goddamn Sears commercial.

The 88 continue their California tour in San Francisco with the Smashing Pumpkins and down along the coast with Satisfaction. They wrap their Summer Tour in Vegas, where they reunite with the Pumpkins at The Pearl. For more info, check out www.the88.net.

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