RX Bandits take a bow at final L.A. show at the Glass House
The Glasshouse in Pomona has long felt like a home base for the progressive ska sounds of the RX Bandits. Crowded in a thicket of floppy-haired, bearded twenty-somethings, the swelling chants of "RXB! RXB! RXB!" on Saturday night were loud enough to drown out the thought that this would in fact be the second to last show of the band's farewell tour, following 16 years, six studio albums and endless rounds of touring. This last L.A. County show came on the heels of a previous night at the Mayan Theater on Thursday.
Emerging from darkness and manning their respective battle stations with a hired horn section in toe, the sputtering drum line of "In Her Drawer" from their 2006 album "...And the Battle Begun" caused an irreversible seismic shift in the pit. Molten with excitement, testosterone and flailing dance moves, hordes of front row fans compressed into a cluster of whirling energy silhouetted by the glow of flashing stage lights. Off to the side, shards of brass from guest saxophonists added the kerosene, revitalizing the band's sound after the departure of saxophonist Steve Borth and trombonist Chris Sheets in recent years.
Following an introduction, the band delivered a comprehensive helping of its sound. Thick-bearded, guitar-wielding frontman Matt Embree kept a plastered grin on his face, standing alongside guitarist Steve Choi and bassist Joe Troy as drummer Chris Tsagakis backed them with back beats that propelled early material like "Consequential Apathy" and "Infection" from 2001's "Progress."
Despite enduring such heavy creative transitions in recent years -- incorporation of Latin rhythms, dropping the horn section -- the sea of teenage faces in the all-ages venue harbored the same intensity as fans in their late 20s and early 30s who'd likely followed the band since its birth in 1995.
As they transitioned from the early years into material from their recent catalog from albums "..And the Battle Begun" and "Mandala," Embree's ability to channel primal passion into call-and-response chants was mixed with soft and sentimental thank yous showered on the audience, whose fist-pumping intensity rarely waned. Caught in the reggae-inflected rhythms of "Apparition," a group of shirtless, sweaty guys and a girl strong enough to withstand their odors threw arms over each others' shoulders and chanted the chorus of the song, perhaps their last opportunity to do so.
As the end neared and the band deployed their slow building, antiwar anthem "Overcome," Embree seemed content to step away from the mike, allowing the crowd to sing along to most of the rest of the two-hour set. Leaving the stage soaked in sweat, hands raised in gratitude, they disappeared before their final encore. With the grace and emotion of a church congregation, the crowd chanted the lines that open the band's intro track, "Untitled" from the album "...And the Battle Begun": "It's over. I must've seen her face before, fell in love when I was born, now they hide her with a whisper. It's over."
Photo: RX Bandits. Credit: Mitchell Wojcik