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Rock Plaza Central to play IC

BY ERIC SUNDERMANN | JUNE 10, 2009 7:26 AM

mp3 sample: Rock Plaza Central

"(Don't You Believe the Words of) Handsome Men"

Rock Plaza Central’s last album, Are We Not Horses?, is a narrative story of six-legged, robotic horses. The creatures discover they aren’t flesh and blood and are forced do deal with the consequences and realities of identity crisis, eventually understanding they do have a place in life, even if it was different from what they once believed. This inner turmoil manifests against a backdrop of a raging war against angels.

Talk about a WTF moment. Strangely enough, the concept is so different and weird that it works. In fact, the album works well enough to be added to a University of South Alabama graduate literature course curriculum.

“The Horses album, removing the metaphor, was about not really knowing who you are, or being unsure of who you are, but being comfortable with that,” lead singer Chris Eaton said. “Even though … sometimes life can be confusing, at the same time there is a lot of good going on that you should be happy about.”

Tonight, Chris Eaton and the rest of Rock Plaza Central will ride their robotic horses into town to play a show at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St. Local favorites Caleb Engstrem and Alexis Stevens will open at 10 p.m. Admission is $6.

“It isn’t your typical Top 40 rock band,” said Andre Perry, the Mill’s booking agent. “Chris Eaton has a really unique voice. I think we’re hearing them play chords and progressions, certain figures, melodies, and rhythms that we haven’t heard before. The drummer is really energetic.”

Rock Plaza Central has quite a history. The name emerged early as a pun when Eaton was recording.

“The banjo player, basically in the middle of recording, screamed out ’This is rock plaza central!’ meaning, this is the center of rock--as a joke,” Eaton said. “We were probably the furthest thing you could be from rock, especially in the mid-90’s to have a cello/banjo/guitar band — no drums, no bass, no nothing.”

Eaton has played under the name for about 12 years, cycling different members in and out until establishing the current set lineup in summer of 2003. The band’s breakout happened in 2006 when Are We Not Horses? received great reception from both fans and critics, which was both welcomed and unexpected.

“I don’t think you can ever expect that stuff,” Eaton said. “A lot of that stuff can be luck as much as anything else. We didn’t change from the record before Horses to Horses, it just ended up in the ears of the right people. All the sudden, everyone seemed to know about it, which is great.”

Nathan Gould, KRUI General Manager, compares Rock Plaza Central to both Neutral Milk Hotel and Bonnie Prince Billy.

“They released their first album in the late 90’s, and have been able to continue to be relevant through their unique music and touring,” Gould said. “Many bands are unable to continue to stay relevant beyond a single, critically-acclaimed album. This has not been an issue for Rock Plaza Central.”

The band’s next album, …at the Moment of Our Most Needing, releases in the US on June 16. Eaton mentioned William Faulkner’s Light in August as inspiration in the disc’s lyrical content.

“[The new album] developed into the determination to do something,” Eaton said. “Lots of things in life can be pretty difficult, and having the confidence to go forward in the face of diversity is probably what the overall theme is. There’s been some difficult things in the past few years for me, and these songs I find end up being more of a mantra for me to get through some stuff.”

Eaton said he loves his fans, often illustrating a sincere relationship with them.

“As with any sort of relationship, when you’re in love with somebody, you be yourself, you know?” Eaton said. “It’s never a good relationship if you’re just trying to please somebody. I think that the [audience] connection that was made [with Horses] will continue to be made because we’ll be ourselves, and the people who listen will be themselves.”


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