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Miniature Tigers at Limelight: Anything but small

March 10, 2014

For a bleary Sunday night, Limelight was awash with warmth for a swell lineup of young indie pop rockers and nouveau-grunge kids. I was pretty impressed, in particular, with the over-the-top pop punk of Bear Hands, whose energy seemed to set the tenor of the evening to frothy, just before the main event: Miniature Tigers.

A band that tries on musical hats like a self-conscious baldy, Miniature Tigers is most precisely an indie pop-rock foursome with a 1980s synth obsession, a sea-healed broken heart and a disco demeanor. Through three albums and two excellent EPs, the band has stayed fresh and relevant, seeming to have more fun than any of their contemporaries. And their set Sunday was nothing if not a huge mountain of fun. When I spoke with frontman Charlie Brand a few hours before the show, he expressed that this sense of fun is among the most important things about a show. “You want people to have an experience of release,” Brand says, “to lose themselves in the music and dance and be carried away.”

With a good-sized crowd crammed up at the front of Limelight’s notoriously narrow stage area, Miniature Tigers took the stage around 11:00 p.m, and their taut, well-rehearsed set lasted approximately one hour. The show was comprised of four or five new songs (which will be on the band’s upcoming album Cruel Runnings, out in May) and a veritable “best of” collection of the band’s older material, including rollicking crowd-pleasers “Cannibal Queen,” from 2008′s pop-rock masterpiece Tell it to the Volcano, and “Female Doctor” and “Sex on the Regular” from 2012′s cheeky Mia Pharoah.

Of the new material that the band played, two songs especially stood out. “We Used to Be the Shit” is a fun (and funny) song built on forceful percussion and an impossible groove. You know you’re doing it right when the crowd will go apeshit for a song they don’t yet know. Cruel Runnings’ lead single “Swimming Pool Blues” and its jangly surf-rock sound translated very well into the effervescent energy of the band’s overall performance. I was struck by how well these songs, quite diverse in their sounds on record, fit together to create a representative and impeccable whole.

The sheer energy of the band’s performance, which found Brand out in the audience at least once, was a thing to behold and get swept up in. On more than one occasion, I thought to myself of Brand “this guy is really working it.” Which is the best way to describe how impressed I was with his voice, his stage mojo, his professionalism and his general charisma. Do not miss these guys next time they come to town. Or, if you are planning to sojourn north this week for SXSW, catch them at Karma Lounge on Wednesday (among other places).

Best moment: when some jackass shouted (repeatedly) “Bruce Springsteen cover!” the band responded by launching into a spirited if partial cover of Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life.” I’m trying not to read too much into this, but I couldn’t help thinking that Third Eye Blind actually is a bit like ‘a Springsteen’ for Miniature Tigers.

In May, be on the look out for Cruel Runnings, which Brand says is “less of an attempt to freak everybody out and more of just a combination of all the things we like to do.” He indicates that the sound on this record is “very clean and hi-fi with huge drums and crisp vocals.” Given the band’s track record of solid albums, this is definitely a summer release to get jazzed about — especially if there’s a chance it’ll bring them back to town.

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