03.20.2012 Sleeper Agent at The Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford

Kentucky-based band, Sleeper Agent released a woefully underrated debut album, Celabrasion, last year. Their sloppily crafted blend of Mates of State male/female vocals with Strokes meet The Thermals garage/punk fuzz sounded great on record but I wondered how it would sound live. There is always a chance that it would get more sloppy and end up a mess, especially when more than one vocalist is involved.
Before I get into the performance itself, I should set the scene. In the basement of oldest public art museum in the United States, there is an auditorium with fourteen rows of movie theatre-style seating. In said auditorium on this warm Tuesday night in March was scheduled Sleeper Agent to open for Ben Kweller. Getting to the show at a respectable time, I was shocked to see a miss-matched crowd of business men who seemed to have just gotten out of work but managed to ditch their ties and blazers and standard Brooklyn-by-way-of-Connecticut hipsters. Everyone seemed to be sipping red wine out of plastic cups. Over the PA blasted the new Springsteen record and in between songs was complete silence. To enhance this point, after one song one of the hipsters shushed the crowd loudly which drew a few chuckles but mostly everyone just obeyed. Needless to say, when Sleeper Agent finally stepped on stage it was not an environment that they had probably ever encountered before: a semi-full room of seated and absolutely silent people. Not exactly a scene conducive to rocking, but Sleeper Agent really did their damnedest to try and squeeze some life out of the crowd.
Having only one album to draw from, the band played an eleven song set meaning they only left one album cut unplayed. In that set they played a rip roaring versions of the album’s opening track and first single, “Get It Daddy” but oddly followed it up with the album’s slowest tune “That’s My Baby.” While “That’s My Baby” is a pretty, well-crafted pop song, it sucked a lot of the energy out of the generally energy-less room. Any bobbing heads that “Get It Daddy” caused immediately went still. They followed “That’s My Baby” with a story about how the band will be musical guests on Jimmy Fallon later in the week. Guests on the show will include Fergie, for which the band showed their discontent, and wacky reptiles, which they seemed slightly more excited for. The entire story was to introduce their current single “Get Burned.” The track did not quite get people’s heads bobbing quite as much as “Get It Daddy.” After the track the band did the standard rock star move of tepidly starting the next song while saying “we have a few more songs for you.” That ushered in the album’s closing track “Far and Wide,” another snoozer before closing out the set with the uptempo rocker “Be My Monster.”
The up-and-down close to the set did not do the band any favors in the crowd’s eyes. I did not get the impression that the crowd hated the band but no one seemed overly enthusiastic. When the set was over, there was a smattering of applause but no standing ovations just people standing to go get their wine cups refilled at the concession stands.
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