Two Door Cinema Club: Next Big Thing or Flash in the Pan?

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Right now, TDCC is in the midst of its initial road test—the first full scale foray into North America. A show Friday night at RecordBar in Kansas City, Missouri, was the fifteenth stop on a brutal 20-date tour—including a long, scary Halloween weekend of four straight one-night stands in four different cities—Chicago, Minneapolis, KC, and Denver.

But none of the customers in the low-lit, wood-lined barroom cared one whit about anyone's road woes. RecordBar is a music lover's Rosenblatt Stadium—one of those places fans go expressly to see stars before they become stars. The near-capacity crowd had seen a dozen Next Big Things play the same small stage—like TDCC's American label-mates Mumford & Sons, just a few months before.

If you didn't know the band was on their first trip through the States, it was evident from the start when Trimble tried a little stage banter. The poor guy made a faux pas so common it should have been in This Is Spinal Tap, when he told the crowd in Kansas City, Missouri, that the band "had never been to Kansas."

Um... You still haven't, dude.

The big question of the night, however, wasn't about U.S. geography, but how Two Door Cinema Club's feathery sound in the studio would translate to the live stage. The crowd came to be wowed. They came—and paid their $15—to see incipient greatness. What they got instead was very-goodness.

The performance was technically first-rate. The harmonies were pristine. The arrangements were spandex-tight, with nary a sour note or missed beat the whole show. Good, old-fashioned grungy distortion on Sam Halliday's guitar replaced much of the billowing synth. In a surprise to no one with a soul, a live human playing real drums—in the person of Ben Thompson—added much-needed depth and drive to the songs.

But rock n' roll isn't about musicianship alone. Rock is also about style and lifestyle, about stage presence and persona. It's about creating a theater of personal freedom, a space where anything seems possible—with more than a hint of implied danger. TDCC was fun. They were super-competent, raucous, and highly energetic from the first note to last. But no one ever lost control, or even threatened to. Never once, even for a second, did you think someone on stage might dive off it, or roll in broken glass, cry, faint, or make an inflatable pig fly. No one seemed willing to let themselves spill into self-abandon—to lose themselves in the music, and take us along for the ride—to go crazy, so we don't have to.

There's hope, though. Two Door Cinema Club wraps the tour this week with another five straight one-night stands—in LA, San Diego, San Francisco, Portland and, finally, November 6 at Neumos in Seattle. If that schedule doesn't drive them crazy, nothing will.

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Hampton Stevens is a writer based in Kansas City, Missouri. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, ESPN the Magazine, Playboy, Gawker, Maxim, and many more publications.

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