We are Scientists Good Enough, but Not the Suburban Heroes They Should Be

We Are Scientists has been on-stage for almost a full ten minutes. The crowd could be my high-school reunion—a bunch of 80s babies holding on to early-2001 nostalgia, pre-911 pipe dreams. My friend Randy is a little drunk, and feeling a little…randy.

The air inside Club Dada is thick with antagonism. From the can’t-be-bothered door guy to a lot of “accidental” shoulder bumping, people seem a little on edge. It’s an interesting atmosphere for a band that doesn’t set much of a mood.

Randy lays his head on my shoulder and lets me know he’s ready to go. I expected the evening to get melancholy at some point, but not to this level of passivity. Not to say the audience wasn’t invested. The mostly collared shirt-wearing crowd mouthed the words for much of the show. It was a business casual singalong.

Overall, however, the energy was low. Anxiety can run high when tapping into the tired musical brand of suburban dread, and the best bands use this negative energy to their advantage. We are Scientists hail from Claremont, California, so they should qualify as a band that can hone the mundanity until it becomes dramatic and convincing. Instead, they have never quite perfected this approach, which is a must to make this sort of catchy indie rock compel more than sedate.

Speaking to an industry guy beforehand, he described their tour as a “greatest hits” march; an opportunity for fans to hear their favorite songs. Though the group packed more into the live renditions, the show also heightened the group’s lack of relevancy in today’s shifting music landscape.

It’s almost impossible for a rock band to keep anyone’s attention now days. If you’re going to demand someone’s time, you sure as hell better be saying something new. Opening act Paws didn’t provide much in this regard. Flip on 102.1 The Edge at any given moment and you’ll be served what pop rock and indie rock have become: the modern equivalent of adult contemporary. Paws simply reheated last nights leftovers.

I was impressed during my cigarette bumming expeditions of the audience’s local music knowledge. I chatted with a few patrons, letting them guide the conversations and found myself nodding while Tunk, Blackstone Rangers, Dustin Cavazos and Cutter were mentioned. It seems that a following for the local music scene as a collective whole has become more prominent. This differs from the past, in which the average fan’s awareness seemed to only handle a genre at a time.

We Are Scientists’ aforementioned hits basically sounded great as they ran through them. The show was far from sold-out, but the crowd that showed was loyal to a fault. The performance would have ended 20 minutes  sooner, yet was drawn out due to the endless between-song jokes and banter. It was cute at first, but quickly devolved to a tiring exercise in self-deprecation. We get it. You don’t take yourself that seriously. But the more you drive it home, the more we start to follow suit.

Maybe it’s just touring season, but things are getting livelier, midweek in Dallas. One can usually find a strong blend of national and local concerts if you really look, even during the soft part of the week. I hope it’s a real sign of progress, and not merely an illusion. But during the show, a friend said something to counter this point: “I didn’t know we were here to relive the Blink 182 era.” The past can be a dreadful place if it reminds us how much we’re still the same.