Rogue Wave @ Urban Lounge 06.12 with Koala Temple

Posted June 14, 2013 in

Rogue Wave. Photo: Terri Loewenthal

 Bogged to the max with shabby amps, microphone stands, stacked keyboards, light panels, a bunch of light bulbs-on-a-stick (I suppose rich folks call these lamps), and one too many drum kits, the stage at Urban Lounge looked more like a trailer-trash yard sale than a place for performers. I arrived early and selfishly sprawled over my own wobbly round table with my dorky little notepad and spread my gaze on the scene. 

About 15 people had arrived as the very young-looking (seriously, like, high school talent show young) local boys Koala Temple got ready to rock our dainty asses (sarcasm, motherfucker, do you speak it?). The slim singer strode up to the microphone in brown pants with disturbingly perfect pleats and a blue flowered shirt, squinting past his glasses at the barren dance floor. He flicked the microphone like a spent cigarette and summoned his best “check the mic” voice. 
Then shit got fucked. 
The police-siren sounds that came out of Koala Temple’s singer as he checked the sound set a sour tone that didn’t leave for their whole set. The audience was baffled and frowning while the singer seemed pleased with the sound. He plucked a few chords on his guitar, which clunked like it was filtered through a busted ‘50s radio—in a bad way—and seemed pleased by that as well. The man on keys, equipped with a backpack (though the audience asked, he never said what was in it; my guess was that it was full of the empty paint cans the band must’ve huffed before they played), started checking out his keyboard setup, which squelched some ear-molesting frequencies that I’m pretty sure humans shouldn’t be exposed to. Maybe it’ll all come together when they play, I thought. 
I’ve been to the Urban Lounge enough to know that their staff usually knows how to get the sound right. The problem is that they listen carefully to the cues the band on stage gives them. Sometimes that’s a bad idea.  
Ready to get started, the bespectacled vocalist introduced his band and they thundered into whatever they named the bastard song they puked from the speakers. You know how sometimes a band is so bad that people laugh out loud? Or, sometimes they merely shake their heads? That’s not what you get from Koala Temple. “Mortified” is the only word to describe the expressions I saw crawl like venomous spiders across every member of the audience. Flabbergasted, I tried to focus on the positive. If nothing else, they sure made a lot of goddamn noise, the rhythm section was fairly solid, and they’ve got plenty of energy. 
I suppose if their sound was trying to match the cluttered mass of garbage on the stage, they totally nailed it, but noises like that made me wish I was nailed to something as well. Their sound was nothing but pure noise. Instruments were all cobbled together and I’m not sure an in-tune note was played. On top of that, the vocals had a penetrating quality that was made worse by the despicable echo effect attached to it. Somewhere deep within this sonic abortion, there was a quality almost reminiscent of The Doors, but any comparison would quickly be stomped out by the chaotic sound. They seemed to be trying a little too hard for a vintage sound that instead came out like a dusty, ancient fart from Jim Morrison’s rotten corpse. 
Yeah, I’m mean, I know, but I do it with love and because their performance blew chunks of ass into the sky, plain and simple. Koala Temple does have plenty of potential that’s apparent in their recorded tracks. There’s something charming in this goofy-but-groovy group that’s completely unrealized in their live sound. If I could hear the instruments separately, and if that awful vocal effect was minimized, they might actually start sounding pretty good. Luckily, they’re young and have plenty of time to improve—maybe they should skip a few more classes to practice. Don’t give up, you raucous sons-of-bitches. 
The band left the stage after only five songs, and the dark weight was lifted from everyone. 
I was very perturbed by the opening act and I needed a beer. That’s when I realized that it’s tough to get one when you’re alone and don’t want to lose your table. Sadly, I had to wait till I was home to drink my pain. 
Fortunately, things started looking up immediately after Koala Temple left the stage. Many of the amps were put away along with the extra keyboards and drums, and the trailer park became a proper stage. Rogue Waves’ Fender amps were hand-painted with colorful waves and Japanese-inspired artwork that lent a nice, mellow vibe to stage.  Without much delay, the lights went down and Rogue Wave keyboardist Rob Easson sat down, booting up the opening hum of brand new track “Siren’s Song” as the other members walked casually to their quarters to a noisy audience that had finally started to fill in.  
The various lights strewn about the stage started shooting off magically and the drums kicked in while Zach Rogue chimed in with a nice progressive guitar riff, opening his mouth with his warm and high voice that wasn’t quite loud enough to be heard well over the instruments. 
The sound wasn’t quite dialed in for the first few songs, but steadily got more balanced, though it was never dead-on. The first few songs sounded good enough, but the band was clearly a bit rusty, a fact made clear by the rough and not-quite-in-sync guitar parts on “S(a)tan” that sort of danced on each other’s toes, and the overall distorted sound that came from the instruments, which were a little jumbled together. The guitars didn’t quite mix, but Rogue’s vocals were pretty spot-on and had a somewhat John Lennon quality coupled with a fantastic under-the-sea effect that Koala Temple should use as a reference. 
As Rogue explained to the audience, Salt Lake City was their first stop on the tour. Their time off left their sound a bit tarnished, but they soon shook the dust off and started shining as bright as the many colorful lights around them—the overall sound improved immensely as they shuffled and grooved through the first few songs.
They really caught their wind as they soldiered into a potent rendition of “Eyes” that slowed things down enough for the instruments to be heard harmoniously together. Couples were dancing and swaying closely, while a lonely journalist tapped his pen to the deep bass kicks.  
While the songs that were good were really good, there were a few points during the show that I found myself getting bored. Certain songs just mixed into the one before and for a while, I couldn’t really tell one from another. The band actually played a lot of songs—much more than most bands I’ve seen at Urban (sixteen by my count), but at certain points, the volume of songs made the show drag on. Luckily, my boredom was only temporary. 
Lights dazzled on as the band performed other highlights like “Figured It Out,” which had guitar and keys that melted over each other like some kind of sexy beach cheese (OK, that sounds kind of gross) and “California,” which had a very vibrant chorus and a surprisingly dynamic one-note solo. “College” was one of the most energetic songs of the night and both the crowd and the band slipped on their dancing shoes with way more tenacity than I can muster that late on a Wednesday night. The set ended with “Harmonium,” where the guitars built into loud, crunchy tones that really pushed them into the loud category of bands I’ve seen at Urban, before slowing to some nice keys that rose back into a cacophonous finish that had the crowd reeling.
In the times I’ve been to Urban, I’ve never seen a band comply with shouted requests for them to play one more song. Rogue Wave, on the other hand, returned to play three more songs that featured everything from slow, trippy vocals and keys to nice slide guitar and heartfelt refrains from Rogue. The satisfied Wednesday warriors in the crowd cheered madly as the band slipped into the back room for a well-earned rest. 
Keep in mind my opinion of the world was poisoned by the ear-gouging I got at the start, but ultimately, and despite the few boring moments, the show was pretty good, but a few steps from great. They were very loud at certain points, which made the overall sound quite a bit more distorted than it needed to be. I also wouldn’t mind seeing them on a weekend so more lost souls can find their way to the show––the place wasn’t empty, but it was far from packed. I’m glad I went, but I probably won’t see Rogue Wave again, especially if they invite those noisy goddamn Koalas. 
Rogue Wave. Photo: Terri Loewenthal