Sunday, December 16, 2007

yeasayer @ mercury lounge, 12/15/07

there was one storm that wasn't forecasted yesterday, and that was the media one in effect on the lower east side. bloggers, photographers, and media mavens of all sorts gathered at the clusterfucked mercury lounge for yeasayer's first new york show since cmj, a sold out affair courtesy of friction. the diy promoter brought together up-and-comers chairlift, team robespierre, and high places to open for the much-hyped yeasayer, with the night's only downside being the set limits (half an hour for openers, 45 minutes for the headliner). 45 minutes seemed to be the perfect length for yeasayer, whose chris keating kicked the crowd out by declaring they had no songs left, and the taster we got of the other bands was just enough to pique interest.

seeing as yeasayer hasn't played their hometown since cmj, it seemed only fitting that this show's lineup was as (future) star-studded as anything the music marathon had to offer. the show kicked off with chairlist, a lo-fi pop electronica trio that yeasayer's chris keating called "the most beautiful band in new york." they charmed the small crowd of early comers with their gentle, emotive songs, easy keyboard/guitar melodies often supported by a drum machine. chairlift embraced a decorative minimalism, the drummer eschewing a full kit in favor of only a snare and a floor-mounted tom (he also played an organ that doubled as a bass line) and singer caroline draping her keyboards with blue tinsel, a cute aesthetic that matched their cheerfully wistful tunes. their songs often seemed to be pre-made for the next wes anderson soundtrack, winding and gentle as they were.

team robespierre, much like their namesake, were harbingers of catastrophe and destruction, wreaking pure havoc on and off the stage (though without any "reign of terror" nonsense). a jarring follow-up to charlift's subdued pop, team robespierre literally ransacked the place, starting their set with a no-holds-barred stage dive. music took a backseat to energy for their set, understandable for a five-piece band with four singers, all of whom prefer making their own dance pit than playing instruments. the crowd, which had quadrupled in size since chairlift, seemed stunned by their very un-new york display of unbridled enthusiasm and dancing, the front of the floor empty save for a few intrepid souls and a guy dressed as santa. since team robespierre ditched their instruments as often as not to spazz around in the pit, it was hard to tell what they sounded like, but imagine a frenetic, dance-happy punk mashup with lots of yelling and elbows, and you're on the right track. the point of their set was to sweat and dance as much as possible, and it's safe to say that team robespierre made up for everyone else's reticence by dancing twice as hard. lead keyboardist tom even set his keys up on the edge of the stage, so he could have easier access to dancing. i don't know if it was a success - there was clapping, but most faces were incredulous or stunned - but, judging by the constant flashbulbs exploding on my retinas, team robespierre made an impression, and one hell of one at that.

high places are weird, man. the boy-girl duo said little as they sped through their set, their sound at once unique and bizarre. for one thing, they used their own speakers instead of mercury lounge's, giving them a muddy and deep sound that their instrumentation doesn't hint at. mary pearson and robert barber put a new spin on the boy-girl shtick, playing self-described "hawaiian hardcore chinese pop," which actually sums up their sound pretty well. barber plays a selection of instruments, which, from my vantage point, seemed to be mostly toy or found objects, which (i think) are then routed through some kind of receiver/looping unit. he played all his instruments with self-designed sticks, and each note of each instrument created a unique sound - i was not the only one who hoped to get a glance inside his case, because who the fuck knew what was going on in there. barber's thick sounds were perfectly complemented by pearson's airy (yet reverb-heavy) voice, but i don't think i really understood them. their sound was as globally informed as yeasayer's, but their approach confused as much as it entranced. for me, the jury's still out.

i've talked about yeasayer a lot this year, and you've probably heard about them everywhere else - they have certainly owned the latter half of this year, publicity-wise. their live show is as visually exciting as it is aurally, and though the 45 minute restriction was welcomed with boos, yeasayer rocked the house and left no one wanting. they tackled all their "hits," starting the set with the anand wilder tune "forgiveness" before breaking out "2080" to universal applause. other songs included "no need to worry," "sunrise," both seasonal songs ("summer" & "wintertime"), "final path," and a new song which, unfortunately, seemed less complex than their other work. despite that, their set was musically solid and rewarding - much heavier than all hour cymbals - a satisfying conclusion to a great night of music. if friction's job is to handpick bands that are going places, they couldn't have done better than last night's show.

probably the most exciting part of yeasayer's set was chris keating, the band's charismatic frontman. though all of yeasayer was into their performance, keating took it to another level, totally lost in the music. seemingly transported or possessed by spirits, keating fell over a couple times, broke multiple keys on his keyboard by banging them with a drumstick, and tripped over the drums. mostly, though, he swayed and jerked with a supernatural intensity, punctuating his wails by punching the air or twitching in time to the heavy sounds. i wish his energy had been infectious though; the crowd stayed placid and unmoving for their entire set in dismal contrast to the band, but yeasayer was, as always, excellent.

"wait for the summer"


chairlift - "evident utensil"

team robespierre - "ha ha ha"

high places - "new grace"

1 comment:

Nels Nelson said...

high places are awesome! love that track, would be really cool to check out their instruments