The Elms’ final show last Friday night at Radio Radio was a 4 1/2 hour marathon performance, with the band taking the audience on a journey through their last 10 years before they reportedly call it quits.
This was my first trip to Radio Radio, a small venue located in Fountain Square on the south side, and I liked it immediately. I was told the place only holds 250 people, and the tickets sold out weeks ago. The bar was smoke free, the restrooms were clean and without lines, and you didn’t have to elbow someone to get to the bar for a drink, even with a capacity crowd. The stage could have been a few feet higher, and the Varilux lighting was a photographer’s nightmare since they were placed behind the band.
The Elms came through the back door and took the stage to an orchestral version of David Bowie’s “Changes,” and the crowd of mostly late 20 and early 30-somethings were nearly silent. Owen Thomas, the band’s singer and frontman, welcomed the audience and struggled to hold back tears even before the Elms started their first song. This was their goodbye performance, but they quickly found their footing.
The guys hit full stride with “Strut”, a live concert favorite which just was released for the Rock Band video game. From there, it was pure energy and endurance. Lead guitarist Thom Dougherty broke loose on this song and didn’t look back. Throughout the show, Owen would tell a story between songs as if he was speaking to a small room full of friends, other times he would just tell the audience that he loved them.
They dedicated “The Workingman” to their fathers, who Owen said were tonight’s road crew, and Thom reached even deeper into screaming guitar territory on “The Tower and the Trains.” Bassman Nathan Bennett laid out the backbeat all night long in an easy, matter of fact style. Owen’s brother Chris, on drums, busted loose only a couple of times.
The band was tight, and the energy was high. The crowd stayed right there with them, giving back as much as they got. At about 3 hours, Owen told the crowd that they were going to set a record for the longest performance on a leopard skin carpet to wild applause — a little poking fun at the decor at Radio Radio.
For 4 hours, the Elms played their hearts out. They rocked with “Nothing to do with Love”, and finished with “A Place in the Sun,” but returned for a two song encore. Owen asked the crowd not to leave, and said they were going to go towel off and then they each wanted to visit and shake everyone’s hand. They signed posters, t-shirts and posed for pictures with fans. Last call meant the venue had to have all patrons out of the building at around 3:30, so Owen and the audience just walked outside and continued to say their goodbyes. It was a night to remember and a blowout 40 song farewell performance.
From my perspective, a lot of people would wonder why a band would quit when they were at the top of their game. The Elms have released four albums in 10 years, and have shared a stage with the likes of Buddy Guy, the Goo Goo Dolls, Dave Matthews and many more. The interaction from the band members during the performance bolsters Owen’s message on his blog that “there are no salacious discrepancies between the band members to report.” It was easy to tell that the band was having as much fun as the audience.
This band has enormous talent and anyone can see they truly love what they do. After that show, it didn’t seem like any of them was in a hurry for it to end. So, why quit now? It’s difficult to imagine this group of guys — genuinely nice guys — just walking away.
– Larry Philpot