November 12th, 2008
It’s no secret that in the past few years, Brooklyn bands have made significant strides in broadening the music landscape with genre-bending and creatively shifty, avant-garde endeavors. One has to look no further than distinctive torchbearers TV On The Radio, Animal Collective (with Panda Bear), and Grizzly Bear. It’s no surprise, then, that fellow Big Applers Gang Gang Dance and Marnie Stern bear some of that burden in their own unique way. But here’s the deal: I came into this show at the Triple Door (11/10) pretty green in my knowledge of these two bands, and both offered a rather contradictory spectacle to what I had anticipated.
Marni Stern, a spitfire guitar virtuoso who’s received quite a bit of praise for her preposterously titled second record This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That (Kill Rock Stars), opened the show somewhat hesitant but came on towards the end to satisfy the handcuffed crowd. (I say ‘handcuffed’ because I imagine the dinner-theater setting of the Triple Door makes it difficult for an artist to feed off the seated, usually subdued audience.) Her songs are fierce, incredibly impulsive, high fret-driven, art-pop anthems that conjure the unlikely mishmash of Eddie Van Halen playing lead for Animal Collective. The tone and inflection of her high-pitched voice, coupled with additional punk riffage, adds a dash of riot grrrl to the mix (think Kathleen Hanna with less fury and more adolescence).
And while her performance was solid—buoyed especially by her unrelenting drummer and subtle second guitarist—the breakneck pace of her set was a bit much to handle. At times, her songs were so rambunctious that listening became laborious; it was when she changed up the tempo that I really began to appreciate her scattered vision. She has no shortage of talent, though.
I didn’t quite know what to expect from Gang Gang Dance, but I figured they would exhibit some sort of boundary crossing that their reputation had indicated. Well, that was a freakin’ understatement. The four piece effectively hypnotized the audience with a perpetual, percussion laden neo-tribalism onslaught, easily switching gears between electro trance rock and organic, psychedelic freak outs. Three of the musicians, including vocalist Liz Bougatsos and keyboardist/knob-twister Brian Degraw, used drumsticks on most every song, and guitarist Josh Diamond rarely elicited a traditional chord from his axe. I often found his difficult to pick out, but when I did, it sounded like either a synth or a deep bass.
Not only does their sonic experiment contain a Middle Eastern element, in part due to Bougatsos’ cross-cultural look and Kate Bush-on-peyote voice, but tripped-out suburban ravers would equally appreciate its entrancing din. Heck, they even threw in some steel drum to complement the riotous drum kit and effects-heavy electronics.
The band is touring in support of their fourth LP, Saint Dymphna. I’d recommend giving it a whirl.