The Cove is packed when the Offbeats take the stage, but the people in the audience are mostly watching their plates of food. The band, reduced recently to the three Fosters, is set up for an acoustic show: Bryan and Sean on guitar, Colin behind an abbreviated drum kit, just bass and hi-hat. Still, the visible wincing in the crowd at the first few notes of “PokeADot” suggests the Offbeats shouldn’t have skipped soundcheck. A guy fiddles with the knobs during the song, but the room continues to rattle. “It’s too loud,” a woman near the back complains, and her friends, gnawing burgers, nod in agreement.
They’ve got a point, though my eventual vantage point — directly beneath a giant fucking speaker — probably doesn’t help things. “PokeADot,” the only song from last year’s long-delayed debut `see “High ‘Standards,’” August 6, 2008` on today’s setlist, is early ’60s garage rock through a post-post-punk filter, simple enough to strip down to an acoustic arrangement without losing much. Colin Foster’s tambourine-rigged hi-hat ends each line in a harsh metallic crashing, an interesting addition to a usually innocuous song, but not what you’d call dinnertime ambience.
“Saturday Night Sailor,” a newer song, follows, and Colin keeps time smacking the wooden rim of the bass drum. While “PokeADot” comes packaged in an easy to swallow melody, “Sailor” — in this bare-bones form at least — leans heavily on Bryan Foster’s voice, which is untrained, idiosyncratic, and supremely snotty. The risk works here (the ladies in the back might disagree) because the sparser instrumentals save Bryan enough space to force his point. Later, during “Pennies” and “Battle of the Flowers,” the loud, more complex instrumentals blend uneasily with his voice to make a muddy mess. A small boy runs back and forth across the foot of the stage, not exactly dancing, but not holding his ears and crying, either, which is more than can be said for some of the other customers. A waitress, probably prompted by several complaints, mistakes me for a sound tech and asks me to turn down the volume on the guitars. She looks pretty pissed when I don’t. The show’s closer, Kinks cover “Waterloo Sunset,” should’ve been the peacemaker between the loud, youngish rock band and the mostly middle-aged restaurant patrons, but there are no shouts of recognition. The overworked amplifiers and Bryan’s delivery — more Johnny Rotten than Ray Davies — probably make it sound like one more attempt by these damn kids to ruin a nice, quiet dinner out. The Offbeats play Saturday, August 15, at Martini Ranch (4904 West). where hopefully they’ll be plugged in or at least better mixed.
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