When I saw that Rye Rye and Scissor Sisters would be touring together, my head almost exploded. Would I be able to handle that much neon, strobe lighting, lasers, and club beats in one evening? Heck yes! It was like completing a sweaty Baltimore bass half-marathon fueled completely on adrenaline and then being swallowed up in a congratulatory shiny glitter hug. [Ed. note: Damn girl!]
The diminutive Rye Rye took the stage with her duo of back up dancers, entertaining the crowd with their hardcore club moves. Slinging songs off her latest record Go! Pop! Bang! Rye Rye rapid-fired lyrics over a continuous undercurrent of pumping, dirty beats. She gave us the singles like “Sunshine," a product of her collaboration with M.I.A., and “Boom Boom” -- but then ended with the track that helped put her on Billboard’s 21 under 21 list, the dance hit “Shake It To The Ground.” As Rye Rye swaggered and ferociously spat out her rhymes, her dancers pulled audience members on stage, inviting them to shake their booties to the floor. And you better believe they did! She danced with them, a whirling dervish in riotous turquoise, before wishing us all a good night in her sweet-soft speaking voice.
My sweaty t-shirt has just started to dry and unstick from my back when Scissor Sisters opened up with “Any Which Way.” Three minutes of that and I was back to being a hot mess. The crowd went crazy for Ana Matronic’s mid-song interlude describing the hunt for a bottle-tanned man. The band played with their usual confidence and cheeky antics, but they seem to have also come into a relaxed familiarity, grown out of ten years of touring in mostly smaller venues. Spending an evening with Scissor Sisters, you get the feeling that we are old friends -- it’s like a class reunion for the filthy gorgeous.
I went into Japandroids show Monday night fully expecting it to be a loud, liquor-fueled, sweaty mess -- and even with my expectations set so high, their show somehow managed to be even louder, sweatier, and more liquor fueled than I had expected.
Cadence Weapon got the crowd all warmed up with his electro/techno backed brand of hip-hop. The project of Edmonton native Rollie Pemberton, Cadence Weapon's delivery is sharp and witty, full of pop culture references and clever word play. His rhymes land somewhere along the lines of Das Racist, but with a bit more energy and bite. His beats are heavily influenced by electronic and techno music, with Pemberton himself citing Basement Jaxx, Aphex Twin, and Daft Punk as heavy influences. He even cleverly sampled fellow Canadian indie-electro artist Grimes' track "Eight" for his song "88."
I have to admit a small part of me was just a bit worried about how this show would turn out. You see, despite having a name befitting a metal band, Destroyer can tend to veer towards the light, jazzy, lounge-act end of the musical spectrum. My apprehension was that there was a chance this show would be too mellow and laid back. Would music that casual still be interesting in a live setting? Luckily, any small hesitations I had were put to rest as soon as Destroyer took the stage Sunday night.
Front man Dan Bejar lead the eight piece band through a rather engaging and at times upbeat set, highlighted by the numerous fantastic tracks that make up their 2011 album Kaputt. An early standout of the night was "European Oils," which comes off of their 2006 album Destroyer's Rubies. The song started off light and smooth like a lot of other Destroyer songs, but as it progressed the guitar and piano picked up until it was absolutely rocking, and the band did it total justice by playing it LOUD.
Bejar himself came across as an almost-timid front man. He would often sing with his eyes closed, occasionally playing the tambourine with his back to the audience. His vocal style is a bit improvisational -- at times closer to talking than singing -- and he kept the songs spontaneous and interesting by changing the cadence and rhythm of the words from their recorded versions. He would often kneel down during the instrumental parts of the songs, almost seeming like he was trying to take a back seat for a moment and let the band step up and do their thing. The band certainly held up their end of the bargain, as they sounded absolutely tight and locked in throughout the night.
The Drums then took the dance party baton from Craft Spells and ran with it. Lead singer Jonny Pierce set the tone by enthusiastically dancing through each of their songs, at times moving and swaying like a young Morrissey. Pierce seemed impressed by the liveliness of the young and energetic Seattle crowd, at one point commenting, "You guys are rambunctious and naughty...and we like that."
They got plenty of screaming approval for their Portamento hit "Money" and their set closer "Let's Go Surfing" (featuring actual crowd surfing -- how appropriate!); but perhaps the biggest positive reaction of the night came courtesy of the day's political events, with Pierce dedicated their song "If He Likes It Let Him Do It" to President Obama for his statements earlier in the day regarding gay marriage rights.
"Hey, people in the back, shut the fuck up!" That's how 27 year old Chicago native Willis Earl Beal started out his show at Barboza on Friday, imploring the talkative crowds in the back of the room to pay attention. He got his wish and took the opportunity to read a few lines from Bukowski before transitioning into an a cappella song, which he described as a "warm up." He explained his earlier outburst by saying "I'm not a mean guy, I just want to be listened to, just like everybody else." Fortunately for Beal, once he started singing he had no trouble getting people's attention.
All but a handful of songs Beal performed involved him singing over recordings being played from a reel-to-reel player set up on the back of the stage. Beal has spent time as a street performer around Chicago, so he has experience as a solo performer and working with little additional instrumentation. His money maker is his other-worldy voice, and he gets every last ounce out of it. He was frequently belting out his songs, so powerful at times that the room seemed to take a step back. As he sings in "Swing on Low": "Microphone is my ticket, microphone is my tool." He also showed off his range a few times, working his way up to a pretty high falsetto for one song, then apologizing afterwards that it wasn't as high as he usually likes to go. When he wasn't sitting and strumming an electric guitar for his few slower numbers, he was gracefully dancing around the stage with his Ray-Bans on, a leather glove on one hand, a toothpick in the corner of his mouth, swinging his hips and belting out songs that left the crowd thoroughly mesmerized. For one song he took off his belt, folded it in half, and slapped it against a plastic chair to create percussion.
Most of the songs sung came from his debut album Acousmatic Sorcery, which was released in April. While the songs on the album are frequently lo-fi, stripped-down guitar and piano songs, his live instrumentations sounds significantly different, a point that Beal acknowledged towards the end of his show. "You can buy my album in the back, but the songs on that album don't really sound like what I played tonight." His powerful voice doesn't have nearly the same effect on record either. While Acousmatic Sorcery is a solid album in it's own right, Beal might be better served releasing a live album at some point to really showcase his astonishing voice. With tons of charisma and undeniable talent, you get the sense that Beal has a bright future ahead of him.