The Format Brings Desert Heat to Aldrich
The Format, like the opening bands, Newvale and Melee, transcended all definite labels at the Associated Students of UC Irvine’s Concert in the Park on September 26, 2007.
Newvale was an appropriate opening band, starting out gently as the sun set in Aldrich Park. The instruments combined to perform lush melodies that were punctuated by incompatible vocals. Unfortunately, the front man of Newvale drowned the otherwise pretty music with excessive wailing.
Local band Melee took the stage after Newvale. The improvement in both quality and energy in comparison to Newvale was immediately apparent. Melee’s music was highly enjoyable and performed enthusiastically by the band.
The lead singer and keyboardist interacted well with the college audience and raised the energy level. His voice was the greatest asset of Melee, a burst of power and song that would fit on a Broadway stage, but was well used in a band of diverse sounds. Melee moved easily from jangling pop to country-tinged songs.
At last came the Format, or rather, the two main members of the usual six members to tour. UCI was the first stop of a string of acoustic shows they would do.
Nate Ruess and Sam Means started the band many years ago and have since written every song on their two released albums. The Format just finished a massive cross-country tour and is between albums with a fresh one due in seven months.
Ruess and Means appeared lonely on a stage that was empty except for a keyboard, acoustic guitar and a couple of microphones. Soon enough, however, their talent and heart filled the stage and swept through the audience. Ruess was sincere when he suggested the UCI students treat the show as a campfire gathering, encouraging the audience to sing along and enjoy themselves to the fullest degree.
Regardless of Ruess occasionally forgetting the words or a key, or Means making mistakes throughout the show, the audience forgave them due their disarming charm.
Ruess’ voice is a true wonder, stretching on during the climax of ‘Dog Problems’ or skyrocketing high on ‘Oceans.’ Despite his on-stage silence, Means’ musicianship should not be overlooked.
So far The Format has only two vastly different albums to its name. The most recent album, ‘Dog Problems,’ is a complex amalgam of instruments and bitter lyrics. It is the admirable result of three difficult years for the band. The Format’s mega-set lasted over an hour, and included not only a mix of both albums, but two new songs and a cover.
The Format was generous with its time and accepted requests toward the end of the set. It was a surprise that the band members played for as long as they did: a testament to their characters and the hunger of the audience. Even after the pair left the stage, fans begged loudly for one more song, reluctant for the night to end. Due to the well-organized efforts of ASUCI and talent of the bands, ‘the golden state wins again.’
By Christina Nersesian
Made popular by their local Phoenix radio station, KEDJ, The Format has come a long way in a short time.
Achieving album production independence with its own vanity label (appropriately and ironically called the Vanity Label), in less time than it takes most bands to aspire to the same, it released ‘Dog Problems’ after being dropped by Atlantic Records. The independent band is a pioneer in the music industry.
New U: Nettwerk Records posted information about your new album from a blog you wrote with the tentative title ‘Holy Ghosts.’ How’s that coming along?
Nate Ruess: We put in ideas for a few different songs, and I wanted to call the album something. It’s always nice when you write to have a name. ‘Dog Problems’ was a name that we had before we really started writing the record. It helped the songs take shape, and that in itself ended up being very ironic.
New U: Does the new album have any specific themes?
Sam Means: We’re really taking it down right now. We’re going to spend a few months on them and make them better, piece them together, make them real songs.
Ruess: We’ve got a lot of work cut out for us, but I don’t want there to specifically be a theme to the record. I just want to make sure it fits a collection of great songs that we’re really proud of. ‘Dog Problems’ was a bit of a concept, and I haven’t had anything to write about, so it’s nice to think about other things and write about that.
New U: What’s it like being on your own for ‘Dog Problems?’
Means: It was great because it was such a struggle beforehand just to get to that point. It really helped a lot. We were able to do what we wanted and just try out new things, work with different people and put the songs on the album we really liked. We’re really proud of it because of that. It was just something we were afraid of