Check out our Wednesday + Thursday review for PYGMALION — Derian and Austin caught yesterday's action.
Charly Bliss started off with indie punk sensibilities. They were playing on some of my favorite guitars, the jaguar and the mustang, which only made the show that much better. Although there weren’t a lot of people dancing in the audience, Charly Bliss definitely gave a lot of opportunity for it.
Big Thief played on the main stage. I loved everything about this set. Their sound was on the folkier side of indie rock. The first thing that grabbed me was Adrianne Lenker’s singular voice, dipping in and out of a beautiful falsetto. Her lyrics walk that desireable fine line between the literal and the abstract. The rhythm section was tastefully understated, always serving the song.
In addition to the band’s considerable songwriting prowess, I also found their tones to be just about perfect--from the semi-hollow body guitars and bass, to p-90 pickups running through a beat up Magnatone amp, to the dryness of a vintage drum kit--the vibe was just perfect. I will definitely be revisiting this band for future listening. — Austin Hill
Wild Belle was another pleasant surprise. Visually, there was a lot going on. The large band was packed onto the 51 Main stage, with the four male members of the band each adorned in black jackets with satiny lapels, plain white shirts, lots of hair, and a conspicuous lack of outward manifestations of joy. Given their considerable talent and vintage aesthetic, in my mind they seemed like some sort of infernally bound undead musicians, forever lashed to their instruments, perhaps summoned by some demon at the wish of frontwoman Natalie Bergman. Elliott Bergman would shamble away from his keyboard, don his baritone saxophone as if in a trance, rip off a bubbling, sexy saxophone part, and then shamble back to the keys, without ever cracking a smile. All of this, mind you, is done over a Reggae-infused Lana Del Ray-esque sound.
Meanwhile, Natalie Bergman was adorned in an unzipped camouflage jumper and tall black heels, occasionally donning a beautifully beat-up Fender Mustang. Her voice has a smoky, reediness about it, and her stage presence is considerable.
Overall, this was really a great set, and even though I found the aesthetic to be somewhat incongruous with a) reggae and b) doing something that is ostensibly fun, I couldn’t help but dig the music and appreciate the quality of musicianship. — AH
BadBadNotGood opened up their set with a cover of the Champs “Tequila”. The audience instinctively knew to yell “Tequila!” when they got to the end of the song.
Jazz takes many different forms and the way they played jazz was very different than Thundercat. While Thundercat used speed and soloing, BBNG performed every part together rarely taking solos, but still giving each other little bits of space to do something fun.
There weren’t many times when you’d recognized the individual talents of BBNG. Not because they weren’t talented, but because they acted as one cohesive unit. It was impossible to focus on one of them performing, any time you’d turn your attention to an individual member you’d realize they weren’t just ‘playing their instrument’. Each of the members abilities shone through, and it was all part of the BBNG sound.
The drummer was the front man and the hypeman, often times getting the crowd to interact and move. His favorite go to seemed to be getting everyone to lift their arms into the air and move them around as a form of expression.
At one point only keyboardist and the bassist were jamming, as the drummer and saxophonist were dancing around the stage. Expressing yourself and motion were two very important things the drummer kept repeating through the night. I’m paraphrasing here, but “Whatever vibes you’re feeling, express them”.
They did save the best for the last. Putting all their energy into the last song, CS60, they managed to jam out and get the crowd moving with more than just their arms in the air. Towards the end of the song the drummer asked everyone to get low and on his count to jump up.
After everyone got low he started the count “1!” then waited quite a few measures, before saying “1!” again, he did this a few times. Finally he got to “2!”, then “1!” again, before finally getting through a full count and everyone in the audience jumped up. This got people moving a lot, so much so that there was a mosh pit going on. I think it may be the first and last time I ever see anyone throw down to jazz. — DS
Animal Collective’s live set was different than expected. The only way to describe their live set is a combination of modern DJs, pop hits, and The Grateful Dead. Which I may add, the Geologist was wearing a Grateful dead shirt.
It was reminiscent of DJ sets, not because they played their own tracks live, but in the way that there weren’t any breaks in between their songs, they flowed into one another, with what seemed like improvised transitions at the end of songs.
Their transitions would build up into a heavily layered sound wall and then resolve by having the start of another song shine through the wall of sound, as all of the other parts slowly faded away.
There were also heavy elements of improvisation and jamming, which would make songs wander a little too much and it would feel like they were going on forever. This may just be an artifact of the way they perform live, using synths and samplers. It was not a bad thing though as songs varied from their album counterparts and allowed for really interesting transitions.
Much like deadheads, who will never see the same show twice, Animal Collective fans may never see the same show twice.
Another really impressive part of their performance was when Avey Tare and Panda Bear would sing at the same time, instead of harmonizing they would each sing a word of the phrase and alternate back and forth. Which gave an effect like panning, but not quite. It added to ambience of the show which had a lot of psychedelic elements to it, especially the production.
They had the most interesting stage of the night, with three props that had human like faces. A lot of artistic elements were found in their production, and you could tell that it was all very carefully considered. There was a projector in the back of the audience playing over the entire stage that made it colorful and vibrant, it was reminiscent of the way they use color in their music videos. — DS
ZXO are local favorites of mine, playing what I would describe as prog rock in the vein of King Crimson, with some fuzzier moments more reminiscent of Sabbath. They are guitar-rock revivalists, unafraid to solo, unafraid to throw in some wah pedal. That being said, the rhythm section is outstanding, and all four members bring considerable talent to the table. — AH
El Ten Eleven
El Ten Eleven is something completely different. If you are unfamiliar, they are a two piece, looping-oriented, Post-Rock band, with Kristian Dunn playing a series of unique guitars and a monstrous pedal board, and drummer Tim Fogarty playing a truly unique drum kit, comprised of a Vistalite Bass drum, a handful of shell-less “Roto-Toms,” and a number of trigger pads.
Dunn’s guitars are worth a mention of their own. Throughout the set, he switched between not one, but two double neck guitars; a “bass VI” style baritone guitar; and a 4 string bass. By making use of his expansive pedal board and loopers, he would build each song, layer by layer, starting with perhaps a bass or lead line, looping it, adding another part, and so on. It is incredible how full and lush each song was, with only two members. It was hands down the best live looping I have ever seen.
As a musician, everything about El Ten Eleven is inspiring, from their unconventional instrument choices, to their unconventional compositions, to their energy on stage. They serve as a beacon, reminding you to break away from the norm and try something new. I listen to a lot of El Ten Eleven anyway, but now having seen them live, I will do so with increased appreciation. This was an absolutely great set. — AH
Shlohmo was fun to watch live. He’d introduce a track, then play a melody over it that he would recycle during later parts of the song, ending in a really well layered mix. He brought out a mustang guitar, one of my favorites, and used it to add texture and new melodies to his songs.
A lot of the songs did blend well into each, but a lot of them also sounded very similar in structure, which made certain aspects of the performance feel repetitive. The change ups in the songs made them interesting, as it would be sudden, but well timed.
Photos by Veronica Mullen. All writeups by Austin Hill and Derian Silva.