HOTEL CONGRESS PATIO
Saturday, July 11
Any fan who arrived at 8 p.m. on Saturday had nearly an hour to wait in the outdoor heat, with no explanation, before any music started. A piece of pie or a couple of drinks can only go so far to appease a disrespected fan.
In fairness, there were only about a dozen people on the Congress patio at 8 p.m., but by 8:55, when Tambourines took the stage, only a few more had assembled. By the end of Harlem's set, though, the crowd had swelled to around 50, including many friends of the band's founders, Michael Coomers and Curtis O'Mara, who lived in and played in bands in Tucson in the 1990s. The two now live in Austin following a stint in Nashville.
Nearly all of the songs the band played were new, perhaps destined for an upcoming release on their new label, Matador. In the indie world, that's a huge score, and the band and their fans had reason to be supercharged about it. They clearly were. Harlem delivered an aerobic set of nearly uninterrupted bouncing and jumping, and many fans overcame the limitations of the Congress patio space to dance up a storm.
This is a high-energy outfit, apparently undaunted by the 100-degree heat. Their songs are short and breakneck-paced in the tradition of garage punk, but the melodies and structures are unmistakably pop, with two- and three-part harmonies and lots of pretty, if gritty, "ooo ooo"s. Their guitar "attack" embodies the depth and breadth of the term, while the sparse drum kit includes everything necessary to make big noise count for plenty.
The crowd's favorite songs were, naturally, the ones they knew best—those recorded on the band's first, self-released album, Free Drugs. "Beautiful and Very Smart" was the hit of the night, and many in the crowd seemed to be waiting for it. "South of France" and "Think I'm Thinkin' Bout" were the only other songs that were familiar.
Tambourines is what Carlee Hell calls her solo work, which is perhaps better-suited to a performance-art setting. Her singing was shrill and frequently off-key, but her quirky lyrics and attention-grabbing persona could be a good fit with B4Skin or another act with similar intentions.