Catch The Radio Dept. at WOMH, Tonight (Plus an Unfortunate/Disturbing Public Service Announcement)

Well, so I blew it for yesterday’s pile of cool shows, sadly — had a thing, and it ended up taking all damn day… But we’re back again for Sunday, February 19th, and lo and behold, there’s one show in particular that sounds like it’s worth checking out.

Before I get to that, however, I’ve got to pass along a word about one of the shows I mentioned on Friday night, up at the Avant Garden. It was a benefit show, apparently for a young music fan suffering from a rare form of cancer, and, well, this happened:

DO NOT BOOK THE SONIC RABBIT HOLE. they are the most disrespectful and disgusting band in houston. as part of their “protest performance” they gave each other muscle milk enemas and defecated on the stage. We had to cancel the entire event and evacuate the venue as a result of the health hazard. They ruined a benefit event for a young community member who is suffering from a rare form of cancer. They ruined the show for many acts who also had volunteered to play. Selfish motherfuckers. Go protest where it matters, not in a friendly houston venue.

We had no idea they would do that. They are mentally ill. The venue is now clean. William Foisy and Michael Clemmons are permanently banned from AvantGarden. I recommend all bars keep an eye out for them

My initial instinct was that, okay, this has to be a joke, but it seems not. I love the Avant Garden dearly; it’s a great place to just hang out and chill, and one of their previous incarnations gave my lame-ass little band a chance to play there when they really didn’t have to. The Garden holds a special place in my heart.

Now, health concerns and whatnot aside: seriously, people, what the fuck? You go to a show where the bands have volunteered their time (and the venue has, as well) to help out someone in desperate need…and you decide the best way you can help is by shitting on the goddamn stage? Um, no. Just no.

My apologies to anybody who went to see the show because we mentioned it the other day, and my profuse sympathies to Mariana and the rest of the Avant Garden staff for having to deal with it. There’s no good reason this should’ve happened; none, period. If you feel moved and want to help out the person who the benefit was meant to be for, by the way, you can — there’s a new GoFundMe page over here.

Alright — sorry, had to get that off my chest, but now we can move on to the actual show tonight, which has Swedish popsters The Radio Dept. playing up at White Oak Music Hall, alongside confusingly-named Brooklynites Germans.

I’ve liked The Radio Dept. for a few years now, especially 2003’s Lesser Matters, but new album Running Out of Love caught me off-guard. The band’s sound hasn’t changed appreciably — hazy, dancy, shoegaze-tinged pop that rides the line between Trembling Blue Stars and, say, Teenage Fanclub, with lush synths, low-key, sweet vocals, and an irresistibly mellow feel throughout.

Rather, it’s what they’re singing about that’s changed. It appears that The Radio Dept.’s members (some of ’em, at least) have gone political, in a way, or at least socio-political — the songs on Running Out of Love are pretty and languid and poppy, sure, but they’re about things like fighting against fascism, weapons manufacturing, government corruption, and the oppression of the masses.

I know, it sounds a little far-fetched, but when the lead track on the album, “Sloboda Narodu,” is actually a rallying cry Yugoslavian partisans used during World War II when they fought the Nazis (the full saying is “Smrt fasizmu, sloboda narodu,” which means “Death to fascism, freedom to the people”), it’s hard to argue otherwise.

This is a political record, plain and simple, and the band themselves confirmed it in a recent interview, where they talked about the creeping rise of fascism and racism in their native Sweden. The guys in The Radio Dept. are grappling with what it means to live in a modern, seemingly forward-thinking country, one held up by most of the world as a model of what working together ought to look like, when there’re these ugly realities lurking under the surface.

I’ll admit that the band’s shift may not do it for everybody, but hell, it makes me like them even more than I did already; my wife is half-Swedish, and from talking to her cousins back over there in recent years, the musings on Running Out of Love make a scary amount of sense — what do you do, after all, when your idyllic, perfect little country is actually quietly turning into the kind of country you’ve been taught to despise (and rightly so) ever since childhood? It’s fascinating, albeit in a terrifying way.

Anyway, get up to WOMH tonight to see the band live; I suspect it’ll be less a political rally and more of, y’know, a straight-up pop show, but that’s pretty damn good, too.

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