Darren Keen, the bassist for Beep Beep, comes ambling over, sits down, shoves forward his hand and says, “Hi, I’m Darren.” A big smile, easy demeanor, and genuine interest are easy to fake for a moment, but Darren stays on, keeps chatting me up, until it’s time to start the show. (He’s also the opener for Beep Beep with his one man band, The Show is the Rainbow.)
It occurs to me. These guys aren’t here to play a show; they’re here to party. There is no fourth wall between the stage and the audience. There are no prima donnas in the room tonight – just a bunch of guys who want everyone to have a good time. A novel idea.
And that’s how the night went. Whether it was a bumble bee suit, 80s leisure wear, or a shirt that said, “I’m glad you are alive,” Beep Beep wore what they pleased and played the same. In between songs, the guys chatted to themselves, the crowd, played rainstorm sounds from their Mac laptop. My friend Rachel turned to me and said, “These guys have presence.” So true. It’s easy to have fun when the band doesn’t take themselves too seriously and doesn’t think the music is the only thing you came to hear. A lot of good records are emaciated on a stage because the band plays it straight the entire night, looking at the floor, quickly hopping from one song to the next. In engaging with Beep Beep live, it’s the opposite. The line between music and – for lack of a better word – performance art is blurred.
A small crowd at The Milestone in Charlotte turned from a huddle of onlookers lazily sipping twenty-four ounce PBRs into a dancing, smiling, not-so-self-conscious bunch. Members of Beep Beep chatted from the stage and onlookers responded. It was like being back in college at a party where the house band happened to also be your best friend’s band. Only, Beep Beep would shred your friend’s band.
Beep Beep doesn’t put the music in the backseat, however. It rides shotgun, and gives directions. When I reviewed Beep Beep’s new album Enchanted Islands back in March, I gushed. Beep Beep blends math rock, with 80s synth, world influences, and whatever else is lying around. The music is technical, precise. Guitar and bass on “Mermaid Struggle” are far beyond anything the average dabbling musician could pull off – above the status quo for a decidedly indie rock band. Keen admitted that the process of writing the bass line on “Mermaid Struggle” is “unlike anything else I’ve ever written.” In seeing Beep Beep live, it’s clear they are a band pushing themselves, learning, adapting, creating something new, striving for something…better. It’s unsurprising then that “Mermaid Struggle” gains intensity live. Keen rode the edge of the stage, and the drums furiously kept beat, swallowing all else at times. On subsequent songs, the result is the same: a new experience above and beyond the physical records the songs originally adorned.
Hair flying, smirk in place, tongue out (if necessary), Beep Beep gave Charlotte, NC what it had paid for: a show. If you liked the music, fine. If you liked the interaction, great. If you appreciated the showmanship, all the better. Beep Beep are above all else a night out with friends well spent.