I arrived at the Showbox a half an hour before the doors opened. The bar, where those of age could drink and wait, and get in before the hoi polloi, was warm and full of people. So I walked past to the nearby (air-conditioned) coffee house. My plans to wait there with an iced latte until the line started moving were foiled by the shop closing soon thereafter, so I went to wait in the line that now stretched around the corner and down the block.
The show had sold out weeks ago, and Craigslist had several "tickets wanted" posts. As I waited in line, I wondered what the "true" indie rock fans think of interlopers like me, buying up all those tickets and crowding the joint. I just like the music – I know very little about the culture.
The wait in line was blessedly short, and by the time I entered the Showbox, the standing room only floor was packed. Behind it on either side of the room were raised areas sporting some seating and the bars. I bought a beverage at one and happened to spot a middle-aged couple at a table with some empty chairs, and joined them to watch the concert from there. My seat afforded me a relatively head-free sightline to the stage, as well as a good vantage point for people-watching. Most of the audience members were in their 20s, with a small minority of older folks. I suspect that the start time had an effect on the demographic more so than the music genre.
At 9 p.m. right on the dot, the first opening act hit the stage. Grand Ole Party consists of Kristin Gundred (vocals, drums), John Paul Labno (electric guitar), and Mike Krechnyak (bass). Looking a bit like a school girl in her polka-dotted dress, Gundred sat down at the drum set, front and center, and said a few words in a soft voice that hid the strident one that came out when she started to sing.
Even though I am certain most of the crowd were there just to hear Rilo Kiley, many seemed to be getting into the groove/funk/soul of Grand Ole Party. Gundred sounds a bit like The Gossip's Beth Ditto, or Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker. My table-mate thought she sounded like Grace Slick. Regardless, her voice, along with the talent of her bandmates, made up for her less-than-stellar performance on the drum set. Given that she's been playing them for only about two years, and that she's also singing and leading the show at the same time, one can look past the simple patterns and focus more on the enthusiastic performance of the band.