At the Mayan, the front section of the audience is reserved exclusively for the “all ages” crowd — there’s no alcohol allowed, so underage audience members have no choice but to be up front. At the first of the Omaha, Neb., neo-wave band the Faint’s two shows there, that front section was a mess of people, packed in so tightly that, when the security barrier fell before the band took the stage, it was impossible to see who led the charge. They were packed so tightly that, when the band began the set with “Birth,” the final track on the recent Saddle Creek release “Wet From Birth,” the intense movement that followed looked like that of one organism instead of hundreds.
They were packed so tightly — and responded so emphatically — that they signaled the Faint’s transformation from one-time cult heroes to full-on genre icons.
They deserve it, too: “Wet From Birth” is a song cycle of dancy, synth-based songs far superior to most of the dance-punk scene. But the Faint’s sweaty stage show blows those other bands’ (including the supergroup Head Automatica and more guitar-oriented bands like Hot Hot Heat) away. With videos synched to all of the set’s songs, a light show to rival any arena rock band’s, and a cover of the Talking Heads’ “Psychokiller” delivered as a psychotic up-tempo staccato-synth beatdown, it’s no wonder the kids up front responded with so much enthusiasm. There were stage divers, an on-and-off mosh pit, and, for the most beat-heavy songs (including the encore’s closer, “Agenda Suicide”), spontaneous dance parties to rival any that occur at a club night.
It can certainly be said that the Faint’s sound is derivative of any number of bands: Duran Duran, New Order, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, et al. But for those kids up front — who grew up knowing of those bands but not having an excuse to dance of their own — the Faint’s not just a revival band but something special to call their own. They’re right.
TV on the Radio’s opening set didn’t live up to the promise of “Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes,” the frenetic band’s Touch & Go debut, mostly because the cavernous room ate up everything but the most overt guitar tones (a problem that didn’t affect the Faint’s less subtle sound). At the right show, songs like the repetitively gorgeous “Staring at the Sun” could have translated, but here they just disappeared into the ether.