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Last Night: The Faint, Kool Keith, Passion Pit at Grove of Anaheim

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Last Night: The Faint, Kool Keith, Passion Pit at the Grove of Anaheim, Nov. 3, 2008.

Better Than: "The Jagermeister Music Tour" with Hinder, Trapt and Revelation Theory at the Grove the night before. Well, I'm sort of guessing, but I feel pretty confident. (How great is it that those bands are sponsored by Jagermeister? Talk about knowing your audience.)

Download: Any of The Faint's albums. They're all pretty sweet.

When it was first announced, the idea of New York rapper Kool Keith (under his latest alias, Dr. Dooom) opening for Omaha nouveau new wavers The Faint sounded about right. They're both dancey and show a lot of playfulness in their music (The Faint have a song called "Erection;" Kool Keith had an album titled Spankmaster). Makes sense, right?

In practice, though, it wasn't quite the graceful transition you'd hope for. It was most assuredly a Faint crowd (translation: vaguely goth hipsters), with most fans either bored or downright hostile during Kool Keith's 45-minute set. "What the fuck is this shit," asked a clearly not very open-minded teen male in a black hoodie.

But it's not like the Faint haven't earned their admirers. After five full-length studio albums (including the most recent superfluously voweled Fasciinatiion, released this past August), they've got the "dance punk" down to a finely tuned science (which maybe explains lead singer Todd Fink's mad scientist-esque garb). In concert each song, be it "Worked Up So Sexual" from 1999's Blank-Wave Arcade or new tunes like "The Geeks Were Right" and "Forever Growing Centipedes," tends to blend together. But not in that bad, homogenous way, but rather it all coalesces into a tightly chaotic groove, like the coolest club DJ you've ever heard—except with vocals and live instruments. From opener "Agenda Suicide," from 2001's Danse Macabre, The Faint barely let up the pace, cramming in 18 songs in an hour and 10 minutes.

The Faint's live adeptness extends to the visuals projected behind the band. What seems at first to be a random array of images and shapes actually match each individual song perfectly; either overtly like the word "control" appearing on screen whenever sung by Fink in "The Conductor," or more subtle ways like news footage playing during the politically-tinged "Paranoiattack." It really puts all those iTunes/Windows Media Player/etc. "visualizations" to shame.

Speaking of politics, seeing how it was election eve and all, there was little talk about the upcoming Barack-McCain faceoff, other than guitarist Dapose waring an Obama t-shirt. Little talk, that is, until the encore, when keyboardist Jacob Thiele exclaimed "I know you guys are going to vote for Obama tomorrow if you haven't already." The response was overwhelming positive; I thought this county was conservative or something. Fink joked with Thiele after this, saying to the crowd "We're all gonna brainwash you!" After closer "Glass Danse," Thiele simply stated, "Fuck all the propaganda, just vote."

Despite the apathy, Kool Keith brought commendable energy to his performance, playing songs like "I Followed You," from his latest release (Dr. Doom 2) and giving the crowd some helpful safe sex pointers. Massachusetts synthpoppers Passion Pit opened the show.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: This was my first time seeing at a concert at the Grove, and was somewhat disoriented by their tiered set up. I get that they have seating for some shows (like when comedy titan Sinbad and his brightly colored shirts perform in December), but in a standing room only concert like this, it's pretty weird. Hmm, I want to stand this far away from the stage. AND NO FURTHER AND NO CLOSER. Hearing of its original incarnation as "Tinseltown;" also hilarious.

Random Detail: Fink was wearing goggles and what looked kinda like a lab coat - possible Dr. Horrible cosplay?

By The Way: The Faint are playing tomorrow (Thursday) night at The Wiltern in Los Angeles.

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