Details@Midnight at Room 86
Better than: Ashlee Simpson trying to be punk.
Pete Wentz was known for overshadowing everyone in his band Fall Out Boy, but can he do the same if his lead singer is a hot chick? Last night we found out, when his new band Black Cards played a not-so-surprise set for the traveling party known as Details @ Midnight in Hollywood. The answer: sort of. The popular pop-punker has gone in a completely new direction, replacing his bass for a laptop and his previous band's goofy rock grinds with rhythms that go from raw and banging to dance radio friendly. Wentz's fame aside, the band's viability will have as much to do with the vocals and charisma of Cards singer, newcomer Bebe Rexha, and her chemistry with him. They've got it, but it needs to be honed on stage a lot better and the music as a whole could use clearer focus.
Having not been familiar with Wentz's project before last night, we weren't sure what to expect and after about the third song, we still weren't clear on the intention here. In addition to Wentz and Rexha there was a live drummer on stage, whose beats actually over-powered the band and recorded parts on a few songs. Wentz leaves his laptop a lot to sing -- well, rant -- with Rexha up front and it's always on the more aggressive numbers. These moments felt almost rap rock-ish and kinda cheesy.
The band has labeled itself "electro-pop" in media promo and Wentz himself has admitted it's probably not for everyone... namely FOB fans. The first released track with a video, "Club Killed Heaven" has a very Rhianna-like quality and the stuff on the band's website is as infectious as any other glossy, well-produced dance jam that Gaga or even Britney might release. Rexha's voice is in fact, very Brit and RiRi-like, though less soulful than the latter.
On stage neither pop tart is conjured, however, and this where things get murky. Like Fall Out Boy, which tried to be pop, punk and even soul (thanks to singer Patrick Stump) all at the same time, Black Cards seem to want to be too many things. Rexha's stage manner is dark, sexy and kinda psycho, all hair in the face and dramatic jumps and thrusts on the floor, but she's no Allison Mosshart (The Kills) or Yasmine Kittles (Tearist). Also some of the songs have an M.I.A quality, but again, not as good or authentic feeling.
Still, if the band smooth out the rough edges on stage, they definitely have the hooks to see some chart success. The other alternative would be to abandon the accessible aspects and go even darker, but we don't think they'll do that. The crowd at the Details party was exactly who they should be playing to: cute, trendy, and itching to dance. DJ Tyson Ritter (All-American Rejects) played a suprisingly awesome set of rock and untraditional dance tracks, but Spears "Til The World Ends" still packed the floor at the venue -- Room 86 and adjoining Dim Mak Studios -- fullest. Speaking of 86 and DMS, last night we got some exclusive, not-yet-revealed scoops on what's going on with the popular Hollywood venue, formerly known as Paul & Andre and Cinespace before that. Look for it this week.
The crowd: Hip, but not too hip to don the faux Rayban sunglasses handed out as party favors.
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Critical bias: We really, really disliked Fall Out Boy.
Random notebook dump: Free Ciroc cocktails all night and free Fatburgers and fries to soak it up at the exit of the party! Nice.
Black Cards setlist below