So Grizzly Bear came to DC to play a show at the Historic Sixth and I Synagogue, on their day off from opening for Radiohead. Having heard some good things about the band, I decided to check out what the hype is all about.
First, the bad stuff:
1) The short was waaayy too short! The band came on at about 8:05, and the show ended at 8:40. According to my count, they only went through 6 songs, 7 tops. I know, I know: it’s the band’s night off, and they probably didn’t want to tire themselves out because they’ve got Radiohead to support the following night. But come on! A 35 minute set only?!?!
2) The short set would not have been so bad if not for the fact that I had to purchase the ticket through the Devil, aka TicketMaster. The surcharges are fucking ridiculous–they almost cost as much as the ticket itself. So I ended up paying 30 dollars for a 35 minute set: I find this clearly unacceptable. I mean, for crying out loud, I only payed $25 total, surchages included, for the Spiritualized show, and they played their fucking brains out for almost two hours. Lesson learned: never ever buy tickets through TicketMaster again, EVER.
Now, the good stuff:
1) The sound quality: the synagogue proved to be a suitable acoustic environment for Grizzly Bear’s sound, which is a kind of spacey, echo-y, float-y sound. The synagogue’s high ceilings made it a slightly live environment, and this slight liveliness made the band sound bigger than it actually is. And whoever the band’s sound guy is, he did a great job. He mixed the sound so that it benefitted from the slight live acoustic environment of the synagogue, but not too live as to add any hot sibilants and over-echoiness.
The mix did not over-emphasize any particular instrument, and the vocals, which are clearly one of the more distinguishing features of the band, were thankfully not obscured by the rhythm section. The vocal harmonies were clearly audible and articulated. However, my only gripe is that the synthesizer got buried a little bit in the mix, but oh well, it is not a huge deal.
2) The band itself: the band sounded a lot more “rock,” I guess that is the term I’m looking for. The live set itself was much more energetic than either their last studio album and the last EP they put out. Perhaps this is due to the lack of all the extra instruments (for example, no woodwinds were in the set) missing, or because the band decided to change their sound a bit for the upcoming album. To my knowledge, most of the songs played in the set were not on their last album or the EP, so this could be the direction that the band is going. Whatever the case, I liked the new material as much as I liked the old ones: while the instrumentation and feel might have gotten less “folky” and more “rock,” the underlying sense of melody is still unmistakably present, and the vocal harmonies are still killer.
The fact that it was a pretty good set made the shortness of it all worse, but oh well, what can I do eh?
Finally: Something Completely Different – A Reflection on “Whiteness” and Indie Music
Since I originally planned to devote more space to the show, but now I have to change my plans due to the unexpected brevity of the set.
Indie music, however it might be defined, has got to have the whitest audience/scene of all time. Obviously I have not been to my fair share of indie music shows as some people have, but I think I’ve been to enough to make this fairly plausible anecdotal observation. It always strikes me, no matter how many times I have seen it before, just how little people of color there are at these shows. For instance, at tonight’s show, I could count the number of people of color on one hand, myself included.
I obviously can’t speak for the other minorities at the show, but I felt very out of the place, at least initially. I mean, on the surface, I’m pretty much dressed in a way that is typical of a indie-music concert-goer: a Threadless t-shirt, dark-rimmed glasses (not thick rims, but rimmed nonetheless), jeans (not skinny, because I can’t fit into them), and a pair of black chucks on my feet. If one were feeling cynical (as I am certainly wont to feel), one would say that were I white instead of Asian, I would have no problem blending into the crowd. In fact, one might even go further and say that I am no different than one of those hipster kids on “the scene.”
This thought occured to me while I was sitting there waiting for the show to start, feeling out of place amidst this crowd of white people, who are otherwise pretty much just like demographically: we all belong to the same marketing niche. And I started to wonder if the other people of color in attendance felt something similar: maybe they didn’t; maybe they just don’t feel self-conscious as I do.
But then I thought: wait a fucking minute, why the fuck should I feel out of place? After all, my like of Grizzly Bear, and of indie music in general, isn’t driven by some “whiteness”; I just happened to like the music, the same way I happen to like “black” music like rap or soul. I shouldn’t fucking feel guilty about this shit at all!
After all, why should only white people get to have the privilege of being a music snob who mindlessly appropriates icons/images/music from other cultures and historical time-periods? Minorities should have just as much right to join the ranks of pseudo-hipsters, constantly looking for the “next hot thing” on the scene, only to nonchalantly brush them aside with snide remarks of selling out when the band makes it to the big stage.
It is no wonder then that my Chinese co-worker call me a twinkie.