Concerts feel a little strange when you’re there to see one band and everyone else seems to be there for one of the other acts. That was the case Friday (Feb. 20) at the Empty Bottle. I was eager to see Future Clouds and Radar for the first time, having enjoyed the catchy studio recordings by this Austin band. They weren’t headliners, though, and it was obvious that just about everyone was there to see Deer Tick. In fact, a few of the Deer Tick fans were so impatient for the main act that they yelled out some rude comments near the end of the Future Clouds set, casting a sour mood over the whole show for me.
The evening got started with Anni Rossi, who sang and played viola, struggling to be noticed above the loud chattering from the bar. She played only four or five songs, which sounded promising and intriguing, but the Bottle’s crowd noise was a huge distraction.
Future Clouds and Radar, led by former Cotton Mather frontman Robert Harrison, plays power pop with some psychedelic touches, reminding me of artists like XTC and Robyn Hitchcock. As a live band, they were pretty good, but the songs didn’t have quite as much sparkle or power as they should have. The band also needs to work a bit on the pacing of its show. I think the Deer Tick fans started to get restless near the end because Future Clouds was playing a pretty long set for an opening band and taking its time in between songs.
I had completely missed the Deer Tick phenomenon until ending this show, so I was a bit surprised to see how rabidly enthusiastic some of the fans were. Leader John McCauley seemed a bit shocked, too. Maybe he should play in Chicago more often. The crowd sang along with several of Deer Tick’s country and bluegrass-infused rock songs. In spite of the fact that McCauley’s from Rhode Island, his music seemed more like Southern rock. I enjoyed the band’s energy, though I have to wonder why on earth they would choose to close their show with a cover of “La Bamba.”