Faint Fans Are Dancin’ In The Streets

Wed 6 Dec 2007

SAN DIEGO—Once upon a time the good citizens of Omaha, Nebraska invested in a civic project. A skatepark. Of course, the people of the corn never imagined what would later emerge from that thrill zone. Namely, a highly regarded band with legions of loyal fans called The Faint.

Tonight at 4th & B in downtown San Diego everyone from surf punks to sun drenched beautiful people to black-clad, goth-tinged hipsters gather to devour every note and twisted turn of The Faint’s high-energy dance music.

Tom from San Diego, reminiscing about good times in the early 1990s says, “These guys have an early Chili Peppers feel.” But it’s not the 90s on display here tonight. It’s the 80s.

The Faint’s music is heavy on synth and bass, giving the music an industrial edge more commonly found in bands from Manchester, Birmingham and London, England. Perhaps it’s a testament to the reach and lasting power of 1980s music that a five-piece on Omaha’s fabled Saddle Creek Records—a label known for cultivating local talent—can sound so original while clearly pointing to its influences: Joy Division, English Beat, Style Council, and Big Audio Dynamite to name a few.

But none of those bands had bass like The Faint has bass. Joel Petersen appears to be the low-key Parka wearing type during sound check, but when he takes the stage later in the evening, someone else emerges.

Listening to the band go into “I Disappear” is a treat for the bass lovers’ ear. It’s funk and it’s punk. Petersen also has a side project on Saddle Creek, Broken Spindles. When asked what he’s listening to these days, Petersen the producer picks up a disc from the table and says, “Actually, this is what I listened to this morning. Art Bella, it’s an album I just recorded and mixed. I just got the master this morning.”

The band also has a strong drummer in Clark Baechle. He and Petersen give the other three players a rock solid foundation to work with. And work with it they do. Dapose plays Slash-like lines over Jacob Thiele’s insanely catchy synthetic grooves. Lead singer Todd Fink, who resembles Adam Ant, dances about like a mad scientist while singing pithy lines. Like:

I disappear,
I lost control,
My body’s moving,
On it’s own.
I watch myself,
Walk away,
A poor spirit,
took my place.

I disappear.

“I Disappear,” a number in tonight’s set is something of a theme song for The Faint, for the band’s body is actually moving on its own. Few bands act out their feelings in dance like this band (P Funk is one). There’s something innocent and refreshing about it. At the same time, The Faint’s music is industrial and hard. They’re obviously at home working with contrasts, which is another sign of this collective’s intelligence.

Thiele says he “gets really excited by paintings,” particularly the work of Robert Rauschenberg and Jean Michel Basquiat. Petersen admires the work of photographer, Harry Callahan. Petersen says he is impressed by Callhan’s ability to change and evolve over time. Interestingly, that’s precisely what The Faint has been willing to do—evolve. The band keeps its audience on its toes, in more ways than one.

The entire evening is one of seamless beats. DJ Steve Aoki spins until the first notes of Ratatat’s set. He returns to his turntables while the stage is reset for The Faint. When the Faint come on, they lift the crowd to a higher place, which is why people become fanatical about great bands. Great bands take you places, in your mind and also literally to places, like this club full of happy people soaking up sounds.

Some bands take listeners on a hike through snowy woods. Others prefer the steady gallop of a horse. The Faint travels by rocket. From the very first note from Petersen’s bass, the crowd is fully engaged. There are no indie poses to be found. 4th & B is alive with energy.

The Faint also do a nice job with video. During the second song, “Paranoiattack” newscasters mouth their daily platitudes on screens positioned behind the band. These perfect-for-a- rave scenes then morph into mind candy visuals. The Faint takes your ears, your feet and your eyes. From the looks of things, that’s precisely the way Faint fans want it. More than a few of the adoring fans in the house tonight may also have lent their hearts to these good looking, smart, down-to-earth rock stars from America’s heartland.