The Apples in Stereo @ Underlying Themes 5.18.06

From the stage setup on Underlying Themes Thursday, you would have thought the Apples in Stereo were poised to throw the spotlight on frontman Robert Schneider. I mean, it would make sense. Robert is just coming off of his on-again-off-again live stint as Marbles (and act which, among other things, features him singing karaoke to his own songs), and is a great showman. But this wasn’t the case. Rather, Thursday’s show was a celebration of the band as a whole, right down to their special guest: Bill Doss of The Olivia Tremor Control.

The internet has recently been abuzz with rumors about the “special guests” that will be appearing on the new Apples in Stereo album, New Magnetic Wonder. If you hadn’t guessed by the fact that Bill Doss is touring with The Apples in Stereo on their opening slot for the Strokes, he’s one of those guests. From the very get-go, the chemistry between Robert and Bill made it apparent that they’d literally been friends all their lives. If you weren’t an Apples aficionado, you might have thought that he’d always been a members (when, in fact, it was his first time ever playing with the band); he provided great backing vocals and even joined Hilarie in teasing Robert about referring to himself the “lead singer.” It felt like watching a family interact, more than a band come together.

The set kicked off with “Go!,” an appropriate enough opener, before launching into “Skyway,” a likely candidate for New Magnetic Wonder‘s single. The show was chock full of classic Apples tunes like “Seems So” and “Ruby,” but had a handful of new songs as well. “You Gotta Play Tough” was an cute, uplifting song that had some of Robert’s best lyrical work all night. But the big winner of the evening was the their closer, “Srawberryfire.” The Apples in Stereo are by no means a jam band, but when you see them perform “Starberryfire” live, you start to think that maybe they could pull it off. Revolving around Eric Allen’s excellent bass line, it allows Robert and John Hill to go nuts with reverb and bended notes.

Even more impressive than their musical prowess, was the fact that the Apples in Stereo have been in the business for over a decade, but still act like they’re kids. I dare say that I’ve never seen anyone as happy as Hilarie Sidney was when she sang on “Rainfall;” maybe it had something to do with the crowd’s deafening cheer when Robert announced that she was going to see the next song.

Similarly, Eric and Bill cracked jokes all night about their microphones and equipment. Eric, a usual back-up vocalist, was micless, but still had a stand in front of him. So as a way of simultaniously lamenting his situation and giving the audience a laugh, he began asking for “more micstand in his monitor.”

And really, why shouldn’t the Apples be all smiles? They’re nearing completion on what could be their best album yet, they’re about to go on tour with The Strokes, and they’ve added an extra cast member to their traveling theater, and he seems to be working out quite well. I mean, Bill was even telling “indie” jokes before the show. My favorite? Q: How many indie rockers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? A: I have that on vinyl.

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