Review: Flagship at DC9

Charlotte, North Carolina rockers Flagship perform at DC9. Photo: Flagship

WASHINGTON, March, 4, 2012 —Influences are always a tricky thing to nail down when it comes to describing a band. That’s especially true as time progress and the ease of connecting with music from so many different corners increases, and a band is able to pull from musicians the kind of material that might not be thought to live in their cultural sphere. It’s also due to the fact that more music has become even more pervasive than it used to be, and it’s easy for a band or its members to be influenced by a band or genre without really being aware of it.

When Flagship played their set at DC9 recently, it was an interesting situation where different influences invaded their overall sound. The band has a distinctive sound that has a bit of a nostalgic feel to it, but because they have been in so many revival movements, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what their influences might be today. The elements they do incorporate into their overarching sound add up to a pretty enjoyable set, though.

Of course, when listening to a band live, it’s easy to get caught up trying to dissect a band’s sound. That can come off as snobbish, too, like someone trying to deconstruct what’s in a certain wine after just a few sips, or how a steak tastes after two or three bites. A band like Flagship is on stage to indulge in a certain amount of fun, and they hope the audience comes along with them. They know that people are going to be coming from all sorts of different angles when trying to comprehend what and whom this band sounds like. But it’s something they clearly embrace.

The reason for the constant dissection that happens when people discuss this band is somewhat obvious, because their sound seems to be deeply rooted in an ‘80s aesthetic. But “seems to be” is an important distinction to make because the band doesn’t necessarily see it this way themselves, while it’s not a paradox they shy away from either. The reason for this is because the ‘80s new wave, post-punk, and synth-pop movements have been regurgitated so many times in the last 20 to 30 years that even if a band today doesn’t necessarily see itself as being directly related or indebted to those bands of the past, those connections are still perceived to be there since so many other bands that preceded them have been heavily influenced.

When discussing that ‘80s aesthetic, talk usually starts with Flagship’s use of keyboards, which are very atmospheric without necessarily being dominant. The way the band exploits the keyboards in that synth-sounding way is especially effective in a place like DC9. Their brightly haunting sound is able to fill the venue in a distinctive way that’s hard for any other instruments to convey. It can make the room feel even smaller and more intimate.

The use of keyboards, which actually do feel like the main component to Flagship’s set, is the perfect way of highlighting lead singer Drake Margolnick’s voice. It’s haunting in almost exactly the same way the keyboards are. His vocals are deep and full in a way reminiscent of so many ‘80s synth bands, but it’s never overpowering, mainly because it possesses a distinctive, soothing quality.

Guitar work is pushed slightly to the background by this band, but the light, airy quality that has just a hint of twee finds a way to seep through the sound anyway. Every so often you can also catch an interesting little tweak that gives the band an added dimension.

All these elements combine to enhance the mid tempo sound the band is putting across.  Flagship is never concerned with pushing things or speeding up. They’re content with keeping things at a mellow pace, letting the audience enjoy things while they try figure out among themselves if the band sounds more like Tears for Fears or the Temper Trap.

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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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