Live Review, 9/21/12: Reptar Makes the Independent Bounce Like a House Party
By KATIE M. PALMER
Reptar at the Independent on Friday.
Friday, September 21, 2012
Better than: Getting your eyes gouged out by stage lights.
Reptar, if you hadn't already guessed, sort of has a thing for nostalgia. Opening the band's website, you'll find your browser screen transported back to the sickly teal background and pixelated icons of your old PC desktop. And seeing its name on the marquee outside the Independent, you can't help but reminisce about the glory days of Nickelodeon (before the abomination of TeenNick), in that happy period when the most prominent fantasy creature in your life was no longer the hug-offering Barney but not yet the burninating Trogdor.
The same goes for the Athens-based quintet's shows, which seem hell-bent on sending you back (though not quite so far as Rugrats) to their college house parties of yore. Outside before the show, a brunette sorority girl squeals in a high-pitched voice, "I wanna dance my fanny off!" She will not be disappointed. While the band's first LP, Body Faucet, often feels like a jaunty drive through the plains listening to Graceland, onstage it becomes epileptic, like riding an all-terrain Segway over rocky hills. That feeling is buoyed by the repeated call to action from the audience: "Let's get Reptarded!"
Guitarist and vocalist Graham Ulicny started the night by pulling a couple up on stage and kicking things off with a frickin marriage proposal. Luckily things went well for the couple -- would've been a shame to put a damper on the rest of the show -- and Ulicny promptly launched into "Three Shining Suns," making ungodly amounts of eye contact with the happy couple while crooning "We fit together so well." It would've been creepy if it weren't so goddamn endearing.
Things rapidly got less saccharine. When the boys launched into the Afro-beat anthem "Please Don't Kill Me," it was massively fast, threatening to fling the typically laid-back opening guitar riff into the rafters. But that just made you hold on tighter, the audience gleefully screaming the titular plea above Ulicny's wincing wail. Switching away from their familiar frat house set didn't stop the momentum, as a new song's driving, perpetual-motion solos passed from Ulicny to Andrew McFarland's drums to Ryan Engelberger's bass to newer member Jace Bartet, who fed off the front row like he didn't have pneumonia.
This is the energy that sucked in producer Ben Allen (Merriweather Post Pavilion) when he first saw the group play in Atlanta, opening the band up to unflattering (and warranted) comparisons to Animal Collective. Sometimes Ulicny's array of vocal permutations and affectations, accompanied by a protruding tongue, seemed like they were thrown in to distract you from just how common the group's tweaky electropop can sound. A second mic linked up to a modulator often entered the fray, stacking his whining falsetto with a growling, almost Tuvan voice octaves below. But it'd be ridiculous to say that any of this mattered while the entire room was singing the chorus of 'oh's in "Sebastian."