By Mark Sussman
Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Canadian indie rockers the Unicorns opened for Ben Kweller at City Limits last Sunday. Digressive stage banter and pink clothing disturbed and delighted Kweller and Unicorns fans respectively.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, August 26, 2004
A good band is hard to find. A good opening band is more rare still.
When Canadian indie rockers the Unicorns stumbled onstage to warm the crowd up for headliner Ben Kweller on August 22, the mostly high school age crowd were treated to a good band. Unfortunately they seemed a bit out of place.
If it weren't for the fact that they play smart, funny, complex and catchy music, the opening slot might have been a total loss for the Unicorns, Kweller and the crowd alike. The opener, "I Was Born (A Unicorn)" is the perfect intro song: self-referential, boasting at least three melodic hooks, and short. Well, it's short on their album (this year's "Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?").
In performance, the Unicorns let the beat ride as singer/bassist/guitarist Nicholas "Niels" Diamond began telling a story about Tucson that had no apparent ending. In the middle of his story he interrupted with comments about the youth of the crowd. Eventually they made it back into the song.
This sort of humor seemed to bewilder the crowd. Between flawless versions of the dark, churning synthesizer forest of "Tuff Ghost" and the brilliantly segmented pop schizophrenia of "Jellybones," the band would joke cryptically with a crowd who seemed more prepared for the head-bobbing rock of Ben Kweller than ironic, esoteric stage banter.
While the Unicorns on their own have a hilarious, sophisticated stage presence (as evidenced by their appearance last March at Solar Culture Gallery), they don't mix well with the teeny-bopper crowd.
The whole affair may in fact have been a prank manufactured by Ben Kweller, who is too popular for the indie crowd, but clearly draws from that sensibility. The Unicorns have developed a reputation for fucking with pretty much everybody from interviewers to their audiences. It's nice to be in on the joke.