Show Review: Electric Six, The Constellations and The Breaks at The Firebird, October 31

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Dance!
The current Electric Six show is consistent, bordering on predictable. Long time fans know that the group's set is going to include a handful of songs that never leave the set, but it'll otherwise focus on its latest album. Dick Valentine will rant about his drummer in the middle of "Future Is In The Future" and won't even try to sing his falsetto parts in a higher register. And finally, the evening will have two song trilogies: "Gay Bar" transitioning to "Gay Bar Part Two" transitioning to "She's White," and an encore "dance trilogy" of "Dance Pattern," "Dance Epidemic" and "Dance Commander." Observant fans might even notice the recurrence of Valentine's jokes ("We didn't come to play thirteen songs. We came to play sixteen songs.") But the most predictable - and most important - part of the Electric Six experience is that despite whatever stale pattern the band falls into, each show is a blast. The group's constant touring has kept it in tip-top shape, and at this point it's doubtful the band could play a bad show if it tried. Electric Six certainly didn't last night.

Playing to a large, festive crowd, Electric Six led off with brooding rocker "After Hours" before turning up the heat with the sizzling funk rock of "Dirty Ball," which benefited from a ferocious timbale solo courtesy of a member of opening act The Constellations. Surprisingly, Electric Six burned off its second-most popular song, "Gay Bar," as the third tune of the set, but the move proved successful at getting the crowd fully invested in the night. From that point, it was business as usual for the Six. As always, the band proved adept at both heavy rockers and disco-flavored dance numbers. Guitarists Johnny Nashnal and The Colonel get a lot of mileage out of their bombed-out, distorted tone, and the rhythm section of Percussion World and Smorgasboard! deftly maneuvered through tight funk such as "Future Is In The Future" and "Dance Pattern."

The audience loved the band no matter what mode it was in, but never more so than the last three songs of the set. "Danger! High Voltage" obviously kicked the crowd into a frenzy, and by the time E6 got to "Down at McDonnellz," everybody on the floor was jumping. And as tiring as it is see the group stick to its predictable dance trilogy for its encore, it's easy to see why they do it. Those three songs rank among Electric Six's finest, and the inclusion of "dance" in their name is appropriate. So it was to no one's surprise that the three songs (plus a solid cover) were a fitting way to send the night off. The crowd's enthusiasm during this encore was one last predictable event in a night full of them. Such is Electric Six's curse for being so dependable.

The Six weren't the only group of the night to bring the dance. Openers The Constellations brought a variety of eclectic styles to the table but stayed mainly rooted in an infectious disco attack highlighted by a Wurlitzer sounding keyboard, cheerleading backup vocals and a healthy dose of percussion. The group also dabbled in hip-hop, space rock and boogie, and it did justice to every sound it touched. But what got most people's attention was the seven-piece group's knack for churning out funky, extremely danceable grooves. Case-in-point: The band managed to take the bassline from Tom Waits' "Step Right Up" and turn it into a song that could have been one of the hottest tracks to come out of 2003's dance-punk explosion.

New local quartet The Breaks, not to be confused with a St. Louis hardcore group that disbanded four years ago, made the night three for three with a satisfying set of high-energy power-pop. The band's songs are standard rock fare, but they are well written and came in a variety of tempos and feels, ensuring a diverse enough set. It also doesn't hurt that the group has an explosive lead guitarist in Sean Gartner. He pulled off a number of impressive solos that illustrated a lot of technical talent but never devolved into a showboating detraction. As a bonus, the group covered Bobby Brown's "On Our Own" for the holiday (the song originally appeared on the Ghostbusters 2 soundtrack) and one band member's mom joined the group on stage to play tambourine. Who can hate on that? Stay alert for this up-and-coming group.

Setlist:
1. After Hours
2. Dirty Ball
3. Gay Bar
4. Gay Bar Part Two
5. She's White
6. Body Shot
7. Jam It In The Hole
8. Future Is In The Future
9. Clusterfuck
10. Formula 409
11. American Cheese
12. Danger! High Voltage
13. I Buy The Drugs
14. Down At McDonnellz

Encore:

15. Rubberband Man (Detroit Spinners cover)
16. Dance Pattern
17. Dance Epidemic
18. Dance Commander

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