Three interesting bands on the bill at Fitzgerald’s on Wednesday night. Not the most well-known acts but all three were very talented and very different. First up was Montreal-based producer Doldrums. From the outside this scraggily young man – donned in a ripped, over-sized tank top and enough wristbands consuming his right arm to make a seasoned veteran of SXSW blush – looked more punk rock than electronic mastermind. Playing solo before an array of synthesizers and drum machines, he helped invigorate a listless crowd with his do-it-yourself style of music. His set was a palette of tribal beats, synth pop, nearly inaudible vocals, and distorted samples. It all came together, though, on his final song, “Egypt.” The strange yet well-paced song threw together so many samples and went in so many sonic directions and lasted so long, nearly eight minutes, that it was reminiscent of a jam band that did not want to stop playing. Although not all his music was accessible and easy to listen to, it’s nevertheless very enjoyable to see what he could do with sound.
Blouse provided a pretty stark contrast to Doldrums’ non-linear style. The Portland band has that melancholic synth-pop nailed down. Soundtracks from John Hughes movies come to mind when listening to Blouse. Lead vocalist Charlie Hilton’s (don’t be fooled by the name, Charlie is a girl) voice blends perfectly with her band’s lo-fi esthetic. Her voice never overpowers the band and the two forces blend so evenly that it’s hard to tell whether melody or instrumentals leads. Blouse played a solid and speedy set – under 30 minutes. Their set brought the entire crowd to the front of the stage. Who knows how much of that was due to genuine fandom and how much was on behalf of lead singer Charlie’s good looks and charm. Who doesn’t love a good female vocalist in a mostly male band?
The opening acts had concluded. Lines at the bar were growing longer. The patio welcomed smokers who were in need of their nicotine fix prior to Bear in Heaven taking the stage. The anticipation was palpable. They might not be one of the most well-known bands but they certainly do have loyal fans who love their stuff.
Bear in Heaven finally took the stage around 11:30pm. They kicked things off with high energy by opening with “You do you”, off their critically acclaimed 2010 album, Beast Rest Forth Mouth. Lead singer Jon Philpot passionately bolted out his songs at full volume while also taking turns on the guitar and keyboards throughout the performance. The band’s sound is very big. Tons of drum and bass accompany the songs in their repertoire. Shouting the lyrics was almost a necessity for Philpot to be heard over the thunderous clamoring of the drums and bass guitar. The extra reverb added to the microphone made for an almost inaudible experience. Were it not for the enthusiastic fans singing along, banging their heads, and dancing throughout, I would have been drowned out in sound without realizing I was at a concert.
In terms of style, this Brooklyn-based band cannot be painted with a single brush. Equal parts rock, dance, and experimental come together seamlessly for these guys. If one of their anthems from a previous album was not to your liking, the next song was certain to stimulate some other area of your taste. Usually when a band announces mid performance that they are going to “play something from our new album”, you take that as your cue to head to the bathroom or back to the bar. Not the case here. When they switched gears and played “Sinful Nature” from their new album, I Love You, It’s Cool the sound took a decidedly electronic turn. The crowd seemed to really enjoy the new stuff as much as the older slate of songs.
It was a terrific performance. Fitzgerald’s was not terribly busy that night but that perhaps added to the experience. The people who wanted to be there were there. People who have good taste and a good ear for music were there. The place was not dominated by the glow of smartphones, people taking lots of pictures (except for me), or drunken antics. It was fun music in an intimate setting on a cool spring night. What more could you ask for?