Now, Now at the Rickshaw Stop, by Patric CarverNow, Now (photo: Patric Carver)

Sunday night at Rickshaw Stop was a night of ups and downs. From the moment they stepped on stage, DEM YUUT was a polarizing band. It was hard to gauge from the audience’s reaction to their set whether the majority of concert attendees enjoyed their set or not, because there practically was no reaction. “What did you think of the opening band?” I asked to a woman behind me after their last song.

“Oh, I loved them,” she beamed. Shaking her cell phone in the air and miming working the touch screen she continued, “I looked them up on social media and followed them right away. I was like, ‘Gimme more of this.’ For sure. They were great.”

As she enthusiastically beamed approval in the direction of the now-empty stage, a man behind her shook his head in the negative, twirling his right index finger while pointing at the side of his head, indicating that she might be mentally ill based on her opinion of the opener.

While I was unwilling to suggest she might be crazy, I did not understand her appreciation for openers DEM YUUT in the slightest. It isn’t that anyone on stage was bad at what they were doing; it’s that what they were doing didn’t seem to be worth doing in the first place. The guitarist played a short, needling solo at one point that showed promise and alluded to musical moxie on his part, but that small sip of substance was not enough to quench the thirst that was created by the dull, evaporative noise on stage. The whole thing sounded like an auto-tuned iPhone commercial. I can imagine that they envision themselves in the realm of specialists in the ethereal such as the Shins and the Postal Service, but they have miles to go before reaching those heights. They may have found fans that night, but I was not among them.

Headliners Now, Now had no shortage of devoted fans in the audience, but there was collective apprehension before they went on. Long-time member Jess Abbott of Tancred had recently announced that she would no longer be playing with the band — a split so fresh that their Wikipedia photo still features the trio intact. This, the last show of their tour, carried a lot of weight for hopeful fans. The worry proved to be largely unfounded. There is definitely a notable difference to their sound. The Jess-less incarnation of this band is less expansive and more booming in a striking, poppy way. “Prehistoric” and “Wolf” seemed like the freshly laundered versions of their old selves — cleaner and brighter but essentially the same. The crowd did not seem to mind the slight variations in style, singing along to every song with gusto. Usually when a band becomes brighter and more accessible, there’s a suffering in terms of quality — a lobotomizing. Now, Now’s cerebral matter was left unscathed by the shift in lineup, but it seems as if perhaps someone has slipped the remaining members a healthy dose of Xanax. Considering the changes in their band, I think that there were respectful choices made in their set list as well. “Neighbors” was played, but they didn’t touch “Giants.” This, too, greatly contributed to the new Now, Now being easier to swallow. If they had selected a song that was too Jess, fans may have been left with a sour taste in their mouths.

It is a little sad to think that the old Now, Now is no longer, but I think that drawing out a musical relationship past its expiration date could have been even sadder. Regenerated a fresh, Now, Now is a different band, but not a lesser one.