Sunday, October 4, 2009

Grizzly Bared, 10/1/09

Thursday night's sold-out Beach House/Grizzly Bear concert at The Blue Note was amazing. Simply amazing. Forgive me—perhaps that's a bit weak in the adjective department, but I'm still scraping my jaw off the beer-sticky floor. I've never seen a band juggle instruments and layer vocals as effortlessly as Grizzly Bear. Self-conscious scene girls and texting addicts aside, the crowd was a captivated sea of bobbing heads bathed in the white light from glowing mason jars strung about the stage.

My partner in musical geekdom and I squeezed as close to the stage as we could get. We were initially drawn by the enigmatic triangle-shaped fabric (was it a pyramid? a tent?) installed behind the keyboard for the Beach House set. (If anyone knows what this was supposed to be, by all means share.)

But once Beach House took the stage and the slow-thumping bass and organ dirge roused the crowd from its pre-show stupor, we weren't paying attention to the set decoration anymore. Beach House should always be heard live. I find them a bit pallid at home on my iPod, but their live performance filled The Blue Note with soaring sound and emotion. Sure, a lot of the songs start with the same simple beat and end up on the same lonely beach, but there's some serious deep-sea depth here, too. Victoria Legrand's voice surged on such crowd favorites as "Gila" and "Used to Be." Like a lot of people at the show, I'm pretty unfamiliar with Beach House, but even without knowing most of the songs on the set list, I was swept away.

Victoria and Alex Scally were sweet and endearing, apologizing for saying the f-word and asking the crowd if anyone ate anything too spicy for dinner. "We ate something that wasn't spicy enough," they revealed, prompting Virginia to ask in her best mom voice, "Did anyone not eat anything tonight?"

By the time Grizzly Bear took the stage around 9:30, everyone was in a blissful, energized mood. (Some folks drove from as far away as Denver to catch the show.) After some fool in the audience yelled out something about pterodactyls, frontman Ed Droste announced, "Hello, we're the Pterodactyls—for tonight only," at which point the band launched, rather unprehistorically, into "Southern Point" and showed everyone the full extent of their awesomeness.

(Grizzly Bear: from left, Chris Taylor, Daniel Rossen, Ed Droste, and Chris Bear)

It's stunning how the band recreates its multi-layered, produced sound in a live setting. Ed Droste, strumming a zither and even breaking out a recorder, was pitch perfect, while Daniel Rossen sounded uncannily, in my friend's opinion, like the lead singer of Steely Dan. Meanwhile, Chris Taylor morphed into a one-man-band on the sidelines. Every time I looked over at him, he was playing and looping either a clarinet, a flute, or a bass while singing backup. And then there's Chris Bear. Some say it's Chris Bear who makes Grizzly Bear (and that has nothing to do with his name). Pounding out syncopated drum beats, Bear kept each song thumping along at sometimes throttling pace. Heads—they were a bobbin'.

After calling Beach House, "like, our favorite opening act of all time," Droste invited Victoria Legrand out to sing along on "Two Weeks." It was probably one of the most anticipated moments of the concert due to the fact that the song has received lots of KCOU airplay. I'm not one to turn my nose up at a tune loved by the masses: hearing "Two Weeks" live was worth being surrounded by fans who obviously came to the show for that song alone. It was harmonic perfection.

Actually, one of my favorite moments of the concert was when Ed and Victoria sang the duet "Slow Life" from the new Twilight soundtrack. Someone was kind enough to record it and post the video on YouTube...

Ed Droste and Victoria Legrand singing "Slow Life" at The Blue Note

(The Twilight: New Moon soundtrack won't be released until October 20, but it contains this song, as well as a lineup of other impressive-looking tracks.)

The band brought the night to a mind-blowing close with the pummeling "On a Neck on a Spit" and officially ended the show with a brief encore performance of "Fix It," which featured Ed Droste playing a recorder and taking the obligatory 1970s childhood instrument to new heights. I'm left with one obvious conclusion: Grizzly Bear is ridiculously talented and deserves all sorts of crazy praise. Initially, I wondered if they would be able to reproduce their complicated, effects-based sound on stage, but they surpassed all expectations. My only regret was not hearing "Deep Blue Sea" live—but I can live with that.

Were you in the crowd on Thursday night? Your thoughts? Comments?

The Set List:

Southern Point
Fine For Now
I Live With You
Little Brother (Electric)
Two Weeks (w/ Victoria L. of Beach House)
Slow Life (w/ Victoria L. of Beach House)
Ready, Able
While You Wait for the Others
On a Neck, On a Spit
Encore: Fix It

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