Sometimes, the most interesting concerts to attend are the ones that you’re least familiar with, the shows that are outside your comfort zone. I attended one of those shows when I saw Americans Football’s set on Saturday night in Fort Lauderdale on recommendation from a friend who told me not to miss it, and that it would likely be the only chance I had to see the band.
American Football, an influential indie rock trio from Illinois that blends elements of math rock and Midwest emo while operating almost exclusively in nonstandard time signatures, developed a cult following after the release of its eponymous debut album in 1999. Following a handful of successful small reunion shows and a second eponymous record released in 2016, the band trekked down to Fort Lauderdale for one of its first-ever shows in the Sunshine State.
Despite a truly brutal opening act in Orlando natives You Blew It!, a band whose name inspires an almost irresistible urge to make puns about the lack of quality in its set, the night’s headlining act was sufficiently redeeming to keep me from regretting the trip.
The crowd may have been thin by the standards of the normally overcrowded Revolution Live, but it was still an impressive showing for a band that’s released two albums in 20 years and played fewer than 50 shows in its career (according to setlist.fm).
From the jump, it was clear that American Football was a significantly tighter group of musicians than its precursor. The group performed songs that had a decidedly elevated sense of purpose and maturity, a welcome change of pace following the grating opening act.
I was impressed by singer and guitarist Mike Kinsella, the rare frontman capable of getting completely obliterated on stage (or at least convincingly acting like it, as he appeared to finish off a bottle of wine in front of the crowd,) while still managing to do a pretty admirable job fronting the show and keeping things moving along. He performed “I’ll See You When We’re Both Not So Emotional” while lying on his back on the stage, not allowing his vocals to falter even if his legs briefly did.
Drummer Steve Lamos was a pleasure to watch, a multitalented performer who was more concerned with how he could best serve the overall songs as opposed to showing off his drumming ability. At multiple points during the show, he turned sideways and brandished a trumpet, forgoing his drum kit to provide an added element to the band’s layered sound in slower moments. His trumpet tone was impressively steady for a drummer, and the crowd loved every moment of it.
The group performed almost every track from its celebrated debut album, as well as a few cuts from its more recent second. The band’s whole set had a relaxed ambiance about it, but one that it was easy to tell held lots of meaning for the fans in attendance. This was one of those sets that, despite the fact that I didn’t have the same familiarity with the songs as many of the die-hards in attendance, made me wish I knew the words.
If this really was the last chance for South Florida music fans to see American Football live, and judging by the band’s track record, it very well may have been, I feel lucky to have been there.
1) Stay Home
2) The One With the Wurlitzer
3) My Instincts Are the Enemy
5) Home Is Where the Haunt Is
6) You Know I Should Be Leaving Soon
7) Born to Lose
8) Give Me the Gun
9) For Sure
10) I’ll See You When We’re Both Not So Emotional
11) Desire Gets in the Way
12) Where Are We Now?
13) The Summer Ends
14) Never Meant