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British invasion at Big Damn Holiday Jam at The Joint

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Not only does she rock, but she smells good, too.
Photo: Ryan Olbrysh

If you’re a band looking to break into popular consciousness, scoring a track in an iPod commercial is like winning lottery. Being associated with the icon of cool guarantees more than just millions of downloads, it sends a message: We’re hip. We’re edgy. If you think of yourself the same way, learn to like us. Now.

As British duo the Ting Tings romped through their single “Shut up and Let Me Go” at The Joint on Friday night, it was clear that Las Vegas had gotten the message. While vocalist Katie White strutted and bounced around the stage, singing into a neon green microphone that she dropped decisively at the end of her songs, fans jumped along with hands in the air. Drummer Jules De Martino pounded out the band’s indie pop rhythms from behind dark shades. Both wore the kind of ‘80s revival gear that would make an American Apparel investor swoon. They were, in a word, hip.

Big Damn Holiday Jam @ the Joint

“I feel like I’m in an iPod commercial,” a friend shouted. Indeed.

Following The Ting Tings was number two in the night’s four band line up, the only American act, Carolina Liar.

Though the crowd up front sang along to Liar vocalist Chad Wolf’s lyrics, the six-piece in bow ties, skinny ties, pony tails and fedoras was an energy drain after The Tings Tings raucous set. Followed by Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party, it was hard not to wonder, what were these pretty boys singing love songs doing here?

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Big Damn Holiday Jam
Three and a half stars
Beyond the Weekly
The Ting Tings
Carolina Liar
Franz Ferdinand
Bloc Party

The night’s momentum picked up again with a solid show from the Scotsmen of Franz Ferdinand. The band mixed hits like “The Dark of the Matinee,” “This Fire” and “Take Me Out,” off their self-titled debut album, with lesser-known tracks, with the former providing more in the way of frenetic rock fun.

Franz Ferdinand were Franz Ferdinand – dynamic and a bit theatrical, but rarely surprising. The single unexpected moment of the set came towards the end when the entire band circled the drum set for a team drum solo.

While Franz weren’t officially the headliner – they were followed by London four-piece Bloc Party – The Joint emptied out a bit after singer Alex Kapranos left the stage with a cheers to Las Vegas and a swig of Fat Tire beer. Pleasantly, a bit of air seemed to circulate making the theater feel and smell less like a locker room and more like a concert hall.

Bloc Party took advantage – playing to a crowd that having stuck around through three bands was clearly dedicated to seeing them perform. Using foot pedals to manipulate his vocals, lead singer Kele Okereke was an engaging front man. He sang, cradled his guitar in a kind of embrace and talked to the audience occasionally throughout the set. While both the guitarist and bass player lacked any noticeable personality, drummer Matt Tong slammed through the set impressively wearing only what appeared to be swim trunks.

But it was Okereke who truly kept things interesting, crowd surfing and even performing most of a song standing in the pit surrounded by clamoring fans.

As the evening drew to a close he thanked the crowd, shouting out “the awesome Ting Tings and the awesome Franz Ferdinand,” and indiscreetly omitting Carolina Liar. Impolite perhaps, but fitting. This Big Damn Holiday Jam belonged decisively to the Brits.

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