It’s already tough enough for musicians trying to make it without having to deal with a finicky scene. If you’re sometimes concerned that your local scene isn’t quite taking off like you expect, you might have to point a finger at available performance spaces as much as the quality of available performers.
Innerpartysystem rose up from deepest, darkest southern-central Pennsylvania, playing what can best be described as emo-tronica. They bind together screaming-rock pain and clear pop production with the kind of digitalism that followed Nine Inch Nails’ first wave (think Gravity Kills, Machines of Loving Grace). The quartet traveled east to Philadelphia for a winter show acknowledging their debut EP The Download and a growing tour calendar with other yellers like Linkin Park and Kill Hannah.
The stage was set at The M Room, a lynchpin venue of Northern Liberties, a neighborhood succeeding in gentrifying itself into hipness. The M in “M Room” stands for “Manhattan,” though, a place Philly often aspires to be. On this night those aspirations showed through in all the wrong ways.
The stylish lateness and fickle tastemaking normally reserved for NYC made for a drastically overwrought date in the PHL. Despite a posted 8:00 p.m. door time (and people who showed at 7:00 p.m. for a bite to eat in advance) not a note of music was heard until 11:00. That music came from one of the night’s two DJs, who bookended an Innerpartysystem set all of 40 minutes longâ€”about a minute for each person actually watching the show.
Considering that even this small crowd may have been mostly guest-listed friends imported from Reading, how this stultifying night was set up defies logic. What’s so sad is that it couldn’t have happened to a nicer band. There’s nothing immediately special about IPS other than the effort they obviously put into playing (that and a cool light show, all things considered), but effort sometimes goes a long way towards respect.
Patrick Nissley’s vocals and lyrics come mostly from the Thursday/Taking Back Sunday school; his loud hook of “Feed the rich and fuck the poor” from “Don’t Stop” smartly loops back to reference the Orwellian source of the band’s name. Other lines in other songs (“We may not all feel pretty / But we feel pretty fake”) meanwhile sound like Marilyn Manson taken way out of context.
Jared Piccone’s drums regularly copied Fall Out Boy’s early, annoyingly fast backbeats, and the band as a whole would encounter instrumental bridges so dense that for all of their energy they seemed stuck on a single chord for awfully long spells. That said, in retrospect their electronic base actually did offer new twists on conceits lifted from dozens of other emo contemporaries—half of this set featured rather catchy grooves amid the lyrical power-pouting, including nods to the dance realms of Tiesto and Underworld.
Still, a record release party in Innerpartysystem’s nearest big metropolis should have been a party-and-a-half. Circumstances conspired to make it less than half of one.