As is the case with most small town bars, the walls of Busters are a graveyard for fliers of bands long since passed. In a way, they’re a modern day war memorial for the independent music scene – even after the bands have broken up or moved on, their mark has been left. So many local acts are a brief flash of brillance, often left with nothing more to show for it than years old posters in some local dive.
It was those ghosts of bands long since passed that peered over the shoulder of The Apples in stereo as they took the stage in a small bar in Lexington, Kentucky. The audience was comprised mainly of friends of the band and other assorted locals. And sandwiched between the locals and the tombstone wall was one of the most important bands in recent memory. But their show Thursday night at Buster’s was more like a getting-back-on-the-horse concert for a band that hasn’t released an album in three years. Even so, aside from a couple of false starts, you would never have guessed that the band ever took a hiatus or that they were performing all new songs. That’s right, I said all new songs.
If the Apples in stereo playing a hometown show in an intimate venue with a setlist comprised of almost entirely of new songs doesn’t sound like a hipster’s wet dream, then I don’t know what does. From the time he entered the bar right up until they took the stage, frontman Robert Schneider carried around a small, ruffled notebook filled with unreleased material. Occasionally during the set, he’d lean over to wipe the sweat from his brow and see what goodies had yet to be played.
One of the most important things about a band’s live show is how well they come together as a group. For a band with two members in Lexington and the other half in Denver, the Apples seemed surprisingly cohesive. Occasionally Robert would have to remind John (guitarist) or Eric (bass) how to play one of their new songs, but even those pauses didn’t detract from the overall quality of their performance.
Of the six or so new songs debuted at Busters, none failed to win the support of the small, but appreciative audience. Some were reflective of the poppier side of the Apples; while others were a crunching, rocking slap to the face. While some songs had already been played by Robert on his solo tours (“Skyway”), the ink in his notebook probably hadn’t dried on most of them. But you wouldn’t have known it to listen to them perform. Robert didn’t miss a note or a lyric, and the band never lacked anything either.
In the final notes of the last new song, one of the fans yelled out that the television over the bar was playing the HP ad featuring the Apples’ song “The Rainbow.” After noticing the strange coincidence, the band quickly jumped into a rocking rendition of the very same song. Seeing the Apples in stereo both on the stage and on television at the same moment was almost as if the universe had folded in on itself and for one brief second was a perfect place. But never the ones to end that quickly, the band didn’t even paused long enough to let the feedback die down before jumping into a strung-out performance of “Strawberryfire.”
If nothing else, The Apples in stereo’s show captured a band still in their prime – but uncertain about their place in history. In a few short days, the band will travel to New York City to start recording on what could be their greatest album yet. Or it could be the last chapter in the story of an amazing group of people. But amid the the uncertain future of the Apples in stereo, one thing is clear: those four people left the bar that night feeling every bit as elated as the audience they’d just thrilled. And trust me, “cloud nine” doesn’t even begin to describe it.