Tuesday night I saw Grizzly Bear, along with the Paper Cuts and Beach House, at the Bowery Ballroom, thanks to Joseph, who had a heart and an extra ticket. It was a great night. One thing, though: the crowd made me feel OLD. Nothing like sprightly 22 year-olds in north face jackets and NYU girls in cowboy boots to remind you of your impending mortality.
I'll keep my comments brief on the openers. The Paper Cuts are a great (young) band. definitely excited to hear what they put out in the coming years. Their arrangements are a bit too uncomplicated and undulating...there was an eery sameness that pervaded their set. They have some great melodies and lines, but their energy is a bit too emo-boy-angsty.
Beach House, a band I came across on Said the Gramophone, was just not solid.
Maybe it was the messy sound that comes with sound people not wanting to fuss too much with getting it right for an opening band or specifically the echo that Victoria Legrand persisted in using to obscure her vocals while banging away at her toy piano, thinking it was "lo-fi" cool, it was just off. I wanted to barf. The sound was like pouring 5 sweet n' low packets on your tongue, and then crushing some barbituates into a large glass of maker's mark, and then swallowing it all, slowly, to the sound of a Somali girl getting circumcised in the bottom of a well 500 yards away.
Finally around 11 Grizzly Bear came on.
First impression: the drummer Christopher Bear is really cute. Second, their BIG sound. Their album Yellow House has a spare yet full, acoustically rich quality. Their first few songs were rambunctious and drum-heavy, in a Vermont jam band-y way. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but it took some getting used to. Drummer Bear is pretty skilled and has a subdued presence on the new album, so it makes sense that he would let loose on tour. "On a neck, on a spit" worked well with this big sound. It wasn't until they played "Knife" that their melodies stood on their own, and then walked, slowly, tenderly, to a new place. The latter half of the set was more like the album: beautifully arranged voice, bass, acoustic guitar and good sampling. Most of their tight set consisted of amplified versions of the songs from Yellow House, plus a cover of a Crystals song that I am having trouble remembering right now.
The thing I like about the new album and the songs live: I imagine a rag tag dance hall in the country, with a bunch of old people sitting at tables drinking. The music starts, the old people start bopping and clapping, and pretty soon they're on the feet, dancing. There's a sense of rapture, of possibilities in old familiar spaces, of renovations and making sounds that endure long after the lights are out.
Looking around at the crowd at the show, this sound resonated. I didn't feel so "old" anymore, and I was happy bouncing my head like all the 22 year olds.