“Why is everybody leaving?” the Bunkhouse bouncer asks as we dart out the door and down the stairs toward our cars. “Did the band onstage do something to piss everybody off?” It’s nothing like that; in fact, skipping out on Saturday-night Neon Reverb headliner Spindrift, as the spaghetti-western psych-rock maestros delve into their third song, feels sorta criminal. But there’s something bigger going on five blocks away. Afghan Raiders are morphing into a trio.
- Related Story
- An Afghan surprise (3/12/10)
The Beauty Bar backyard is abuzz with anticipation as we arrive—the sort of palatable excitement rarely felt moments before a local band’s performance in Las Vegas. It’s cold out, but with so many bodies pressed together, the weather isn’t a major concern. Of greater significance? Securing a good view of the Afghan crew: co-founders Mikey Francis and Vincent “Beans” Campillo and new man Drew Marcogliese. The latter’s appointment as full-time drummer signals a new chapter in the electronic group’s short but eventful existence, evidenced by the opening moments of tonight’s set.
All three guys have drumsticks in their hands as the music begins with a rhythmic charge, Francis and Campillo banging the hell out of floor toms. It’s a significant new look—and sound—for Afghan Raiders, the introduction of this sonically organic, visually interesting element. The lanky Marcogliese, an old USC buddy of Francis, has credentials; he’s been drumming for popular SoCal post-hardcore band Finch since that group’s 2007 reunion. Tonight, he sits in the forefront at stage left, his headphoned head facing Francis while Campillo works the knobs and buttons slightly farther back.
As Afghan “oldie” “Future Thinkers” kicks in, the Downtown crowd bumps and bounces; fists pump to the burly beats, and two upright heat lamps begin to sway menacingly as the song transitions into the Raiders’ remix of The Black Lips’ “The Drop I Hold.” And then it’s time for a new tune, the first of four introduced on the night, “My Artificial Empire.” Sorry, Spindrift, but this is must-see Vegas scene.
The string of brand-new material—“If Only,” “Talk About Devotion” and “Dance With the Dead” are interspersed with only one familiar tune, “Solid Gold”—sounds strong on first listen, consistent with the group’s previous work but perhaps more melodically expansive, the vocals more warmly delivered.
And then it’s over. The blur of bodies slows, then reluctantly, ceases. High fives and hugs ensue. Campillo’s parents beam proudly at the side of the stage. On Monday morning, their son heads to Austin, where Afghan Raiders will perform six shows and one DJ set in five days. Maybe they’ll land a record deal, or get invited to tour with a mega band. But for tonight, at least, they’re still ours. Vegas had the chance to witness it first, and this time, the city didn’t let the opportunity slip by.