Rana :: 07.29.04 :: Rocks Off Boat Cruise :: New York, NY
Towards the end of their floating set on the night of July 29, Rana immersed themselves in an acrobatic instrumental tune, "Whenever You Can," that twists around an intensely simple riff on the guitar from Scott Metzger. I absolutely love this tune and they nailed it. The thing about it is Rana is not the kind of band that plays esoteric, brain-probing instrumental music. They are a band that doesn't play those songs, but does it anyway because that's who they are. Confusing? Not quite as confusing as the lingering, nagging feeling I get every time I leave a Rana show--why aren't these guys playing to a packed Irving Plaza or Roseland Ballroom? Where the fuck is everybody? Oh well, more for us...
Enigmatic it is--a band that does things that they don't really do. Let's put it this way, if I may speak metaphorically: New York City is skyscrapers and the Statue of Liberty and Times Square and Madison Square Garden. It is not New Jersey or Brooklyn or seedy clubs below Houston St. And yet, it is all of those things, maybe even more so. All this is apparent from the water. Everyone's on the boat (that vessel of rockitude, The Half Moon Cruise Ship) getting their drinks on, and suddenly we shove off into the East River and the wide vista of the city comes into view. The whole island is there for the taking and there's Brooklyn and around the corner our vantage includes Jersey, too, and suddenly the city is greater than just midtown Manhattan. Maybe even more interesting is the sinewy connections between all this--the boat passes under bridges and over tunnels. Even more interesting are the city's arrangements with its environments: legs of the Brooklyn Bridge plunging deep, holding their positions as they have for a century or so; ventilation shafts from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel a testament to innovation spurred on by the necessity of a bulging island. This is the place of Rana. They are the underbelly of the city, rising from New Jersey, residing in Brooklyn, perpetually sharpening their chops and their attitude in clubs in Tribeca or the East Village. Rana is the ventilation shaft of modern 'n' roll, their necessity sometimes only visible from that boat in the water, dispelling the exhaust from those coming and going and breathing fresh air to those unaware underwater.
Metzger & Southern :: 07.29 :: Rocks Off Boat
The show begins with sheer terror, shredding through the crowd and leaving enthusiastic yelps like the boat cutting through the waters in front of us. The energy from the first half hour is inestimable, a sheer force of hard rock plundering. Matt Durant has established himself as a front man with a certain balance of quirkiness and seriousness that trickles down to Ryan Thornton, Andrew Southern, and Scott Metzger. There is a decade's worth of rock 'n' roll history oozing out of every gesture these guys make. It's tough to figure out, watching them battle the waves, if they are so far into a stereotype-as-joke posturing that it becomes a dead-serious persona or vice versa. Either way it's perfect. The band was clicking here and nearly exploded the faithful with stand-bys "So Long Edgewood" and "So Long Shadow," and the busting-out of "Skin and Bone" which delighted the hard cores and kept those less-informed a-shaking.
Southern & Metzger :: 07.29 :: Rocks Off Boat
I have heard comparisons with lots of rock's luminaries, present and past. At times during this first stretch, the one that resonated strongly was the Talking Heads. Of course, Rana will never have a David Byrne. Then again, the Talking Heads never had a beast the likes of Boots on guitar. Within the first half hour of the set, Metzger proved himself to be worthy of accolades and adjectives culled from my well-worn mental thesaurus (look 'em up yourself under "fan-fucking-tastic"). It appeared as if he was making his own knees weak and his own jaw go slack with NASCAR-level speed up and down his new axe. Dexterity meets passion in the assuming figure of Scott Metzger and each climactic solo is another step up the ladder to guitar-god immortality. And he delivers it all with a grin to match.
Metzger & Southern :: 07.29 :: Rocks Off Boat
Between Durant's "Remember the 80s"-worthy vocals and Metzger's anything--can-do-I-can-do-better guitaerobics it's worthwhile to note that probably the ultimate strength of Rana is the rhythm section. This struck me again and again on Thursday night--this boat wouldn't float if it weren't for a sea-worthy hull, and Thornton and Southern are more than up for the task. Like Mr. Miyagi once said, it's all about balance, and Ryan and Andrew are a perfect pivot for Rana. Letting themselves get out just enough to keep things interesting, but knowing their skeletal and cardiovascular place, the pair zoned in on each other and the other two with a joy-to-watch precision that makes this band, dare I say it, great.
Other highlights were a full-tilt "Bloodshed" that had the crowd working their drunken screams to shores on both sides of the boat. Rana seems to be one of those bands that you "get" or you don't. I consider myself more and more a fan with every show I get to, but the faithful is rabid in ways I can completely relate to. Still, I don't quite understand it. Rana is no high-shelf whiskey meant to be sipped and appreciated for some musky aftertastes; Rana is ice-cold canned beer, a refreshing blast of simplicity, guzzled one after another until one becomes five becomes ten becomes another trip to the corner store.
Scott Metzger :: 07.29 :: Rocks Off Boat
Was it the greatest Rana show I've ever seen? Far from it. After punk rocking me to headbanging heaven with "Carson Daly" and digging into rock 'n' roll archaeology by dropping a surprise verse or two of the Stones' "Satisfaction" in the middle of an already raging "Love It Automatic," the show hit a drastic lull. A bunch of brand new and newish songs got mixed into some slower material and, even though the songs were of decent quality, Rana had, for the first time since leaving shore, lost the crowd and with them their awesome energy. I could sense that they could sense it, but it was too late, despite Durant's attempts at playing the "What do you want to hear?" game somewhere in that shuffle.
Finally they turned a corner with a closing rage-a-thon of "Buy Sell or Break," the aforementioned brilliance of "Whenever You Can," and a hot, hot, hot docking doublet of "My One Dear Son" > "We Will Not Be Lovers." "Lovers" was especially nasty with the whole band determined to give their now-liquored lovers all they had before sending them to shore. The encore featured a little bit of everything with Metzger getting to sing a few for a change, giving us Prince's "Pop Life' and then botching up his own "Backstage Pass" before allowing Durant to lead the band and crowd in a little "RanaRock!" chant. Again, I couldn't tell just how far their tongues were in their cheeks--this is not a band that ends its shows with vocal jams... but they do it anyway.
Walking off the boat, despite the less-than-perfect set, my love for Rana seemed still to have grown. There is something about them that just strikes me as a perfect rock 'n' roll band; maybe just perfect for me. Maybe for you, too? Do yourself a favor and check 'em out.
Words by: Aaron Stein
Images by: J-R Hevon
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