I can’t fathom Trans Am putting on a bad live show. They haven’t been the greatest concerts I’ve ever seen, but the band has never disappointed. Over the years, Trans Am has remained a taut, no-excess trio. (Compare that with Modest Mouse, which, as more and more members have been added, has actually somehow diminished its once vicious power.) In my experience with their live shows, the band members efficiently gallop through their heavily Kraftwerk-indebted sets without resorting to too much of the jammy noodling that can plague other post-rock outfits. These positive attributes were on fine display when Trans Am tore up the Troubadour in Los Angeles on April 20.
The band members have always gotten a perverse thrill out of challenging their audience with plenty of “Are they joking?” stances. Their music often sounds straight out of Knight Rider, and a friend of mine says it actually makes her want to hop in a Trans Am and speed up the California coast. Keeping things humorous, beastly drummer Sebastian Thomson played the entire night with his shit off, all the better to show off an enormous gold chain around his neck. Bassist/keyboardist Nathan Means loved nothing more than to address the crowd via the same vocoder he sang through on many songs. I could’ve sworn he was going off on some nasty sex talk at a few points, but it’s so hard to understand a damn thing that comes out of a vocoder that I’m not absolutely sure.
Trans Am played plenty off of Sex Change, released in February by Thrill Jockey, opening with “Conspiracy of the Gods.” A guitarist from opening band Zombi joined the band for “First Words.” And the band still managed to rip through “Tesco v. Sainsbury’s” even with Means munching on what looked to be a microwavable burrito.
All cheeze aside, when the members of Trans Am want to just get down to the rock, they can really rawk. They closed with two great tracks from career highlight Red Line. Their original set ended with the monster-size riffage of “Slow Response,” sweat flying off Thomson as he pounded away. And after a short break, Trans Am encored with “Play in the Summer.”