I’ve been excited for this show for a good long while. Delicate Steve, Akron/Family, and my birthday all wrapped into one glorious evening? For sure. Banditas – a local Cambridge band – I’m sad to say I wasn’t familiar with at all before the show, but having seen them I would certainly jump to see them again.
I arrived on the tail end of their set, just enough time to see the group perform Harmony Glass, a dark and yearning tune all about revenge, reminiscent of a Decemberists ballad along the lines of “Chimbley Sweep”, but less upbeat. The driving bass beat powered their music steadily forward as the vocalists entwined their harmonies over brassy guitars and tambourines. Truly their sound exuded a rampant badassery just from the driving force of it, all the while maintaining that totally awesome wistful indie vibe.
Banditas’ set was followed up by New Jersey act Delicate Steve. I was only recently introduced to Delicate Steve through a friend (a friend who, it turns out, knows the band well and had contacted them that day to tell them that they should chat with me should I introduce myself, but I didn’t know until after I left. AUGHH!!) but I got hooked on their sound right away. Their music was full of staccato guitars and incredibly catchy synth lines and crashing cymbals and the very very attractive second guitarist singing something into the mic. The only words I could make out the whole time were “AAAAAAAAAAAAYY-OOOOOO” but you didn’t need to actually understand any of the words to feel that this music was the sound of victory. Little chords and riffs would play around then explode into a rapturous glory that sounded like running through every summer you could remember, even if it was raining outside. They ended the set with “Butterfly”, my favorite track from their new album Wondervisions. The main riff of this song sounds like life and love and happy memories that aren’t even yours but still make you smile all over. God, I love this band.
Following Delicate Steve and all their infinite beauty, Akron/Family took the stage. These guys are all about the beards, tribal tablecloths, and – as I soon found – jamming, loops, and loudness.
I know about Akron/Family from a mix of their stuff I got from the same aforementioned friend a few years ago. From that, I was expecting the sort of indieful gallantry of Love is Simple, complete with stacks of harmonies and big choruses and refrains for everyone to passionately belt out. They started not far from this expectation; ethereal echoes of feedback swelled and rolled us into Meek Warrior. The notable difference was that the myriad acoustic instruments that mark their earlier albums were replaced with electric guitars, various electrical inputs and sound generators, and mics for yelling into. So this was not going to be the folkiness that I had come to expect from Akron/Family. That’s cool. I can deal.
Dropping my expectations, I let myself get carried wherever they decided to take this show. Following some clapping and galloping riffs and “So It Goes” (from their latest album, The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Sinju TNT) the music began to pulse. Loops with kazoos were made. Chords with boatloads of intended gain and feedback roared over each other and electronically devised rhythms created an undercurrent of sound that permeated everyone’s inner beings. The overall character of the show became this: imagine yourself swaddled tightly with some hundred of your peers and stowed in the beard of a lumberjack who has become lost in a noise factory situated in the middle of the woods. If you can imagine that, you’re probably as high as their drummer was and perfectly capable of comprehending what this show was like. Beyond a full-body experience, it was a soul-encompassing one; add to that the fact that you couldn’t hear yourself and the bass sometimes was reminiscent of being locked in the trunk of a stereo-tricked-out car blasting through Puerto Rican North Philly in July. It was hard to tell when it was a song and when it was a jam. Nonetheless, the whole show had a sort of primal cohesion throughout.
Things mellowed out toward the end with “Crickets” from Love is Simple. Then everything erupted one last time – just after they’d lulled us – with what I think was version of A AAA O A WAY from TNT only on acid or something. I was sad that “Ed is A Portal” (everyone’s favorite. Really.) never happened but I wasn’t disappointed with the show. Though it was entirely not what I’d expected, the psych/noise/indie that still has my ears ringing had made sweet sweet love to the part of me that can listen to musique concrète for hours. That part doesn’t get out much.
Every single act that night was excellent. It was a great variety of styles that was represented. I especially like that Akron/Family, while touring with Delicate Steve, also has local acts open for them. I’ll get to see Philly act The Love Club opening when I catch these guys back in the City of Brotherly Love. Which will happen. For all the fear that my ear drums would rupture by the end, this show was too good not to see again if the chance presents itself.
Photo credit: Laura Jane Brubaker