Pop & Hiss

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Fun for free at Spaceland tonight

August 31, 2009 |  6:16 pm


It's really too bad that Nate Ruess got signed with his band the Format back in 2003, because if he had ended up on "American Idol," he would be the next Kelly Clarkson.

Nate has a voice that is perfect for the nation's biggest TV show and he's only gotten better over the years. His high notes soar and dart and somehow catapult to registers that make it impossible to sing along with. But the music of the Format, and now his new band, Fun, encourages singalongs. Ruess' music is the opposite of emo: it's poppy, hopeful, happy mini-epics that wander every which way and rarely end up where you expected.

The Format released an album for Elektra in 2003 ("Interventions + Lullabies") and self-released a follow-up, "Dog Problems," in 2006. At its heart the band was really a combo of Ruess' superstar vocals with Sam Means' melodic keyboards. Although relatively unplayed on local radio The Format played to sold-out shows at venues like The Avalon and The Mayan (where they filmed a live dvd).

The pair split up and late last year Ruess formed Fun with Andrew Dost of Chicago's art-pop group Anathallo and Jack Antonoff of Steel Train. Their self-released debut offering, "Aim and Ignite," is a spiraling mini-masterpiece evoking all of the best reasons to love Queen and E.L.O.

Whereas "Dog Problems" gave you hope that Gen Y was finally feeling comfortable flying its freak flag, "Aim and Ignite," with all its complexities and nuances, reminds you that the best '70s rock was so good because of its depth.

Fun plays for free tonight at 8:30 at Spaceland, opening a show that includes another up-and-coming group, Local Natives, which is ending its month-long residence at the Silver Lake staple. Go early and soak in the fun. And don't be surprised if you see Stephen McDonald of Redd Kross or Roger Joseph Manning Jr. of Jellyfish in the audience, as they produced and arranged the new album, respectively.

-- Tony Pierce