[LIVE REVIEW] No Age at the Drunken Unicorn, 1/21/2011

I’ve seen No Age live three times now, each time in support of a different release. The first time was back in 2008 when they were still touring behind the previous year’s Weirdo Rippers, the EP compilation that put them on the indie map. That album and show were evidence of the band in its rawest form, featuring ambient passages that erupted into quick bursts of lo-fi pop-punk. It was pretty exciting stuff, and lean enough that drummer/singer Dean Spunt and guitarist Randy Randall could interpret it on-stage without any additional help.

I next saw them in the summer of that same year, after their proper debut Nouns had been released. That album dominated the setlist, but the new songs lost something in the live translation. It was still a great set, played with energy by a couple of guys who clearly love the hell out of their job, but the nuances of the album didn’t come through. Nouns found them getting trickier in the studio, using layered tracks and deliberate production that was far more clever than the rest of their lo-fi peers. Live, though, they just came across as a really good punk band. I saw that show with a friend that dismissively said they might as well be on the Warped Tour. That’s much harsher than I ever would have been, but I could somewhat understand the argument – they weren’t really the same band live as on record.

Jump forward two and half years and one and a half albums to Friday night at the Drunken Unicorn. No Age has been touring with a third member on samplers and other electronics for awhile now, and it makes a critical difference that was immediately apparent on set (and Everything in Between) opener “Life Prowler.” Can you even imagine that one being played with just guitar and drums? The same goes for most every track on the last album and last year’s Losing Feeling EP. It helped the Nouns tracks, too, particularly “Eraser,” which sounded much bigger than it did a couple of years ago.

No Age is no longer a band that writes songs for a strictly guitar/drums set up, and they haven’t been for awhile. Spunt and Randall could easily adapt the songs for a two man performance, but the fact that they don’t is evidence that they’re not content to just sound like a really good punk band. They recreate these songs with the care they deserve, and that will probably affect their longevity as a band. Sweaty DIY punk shows are great, but what I saw Friday night was even better.

A few more pictures after the jump.

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