Thirty minutes before showtime, the forecast wasn't looking good. What started as a small shower soon escalated into a near downpour, sending a patchwork of different colored umbrellas springing up at McCarren Park Friday night.
Then it happened: the event that nearly broke Twitter. It began with a low rumble that quickly rippled through the crowd. Then, "OH MY GOD! DOUBLE RAINBOW!" Within seconds, every smartphone was tracked on the sky, and cries of jubilation and cheap sarcasm rang out. If you think Sharon Van Etten is a tough act to follow, try a double rainbow. But Yellow Ostrich was up for trying.
Soon after the buzz died down, the newly signed Barsuk trio took the stage. Somehow despite all the weather-related chaos that had transpired over the past 30 minutes subsided just in time for the show. A Northside miracle.
Recorded, Yellow Ostrich is a fine-tuned, feel-good indie machine, but in a live setting, front man Alex Schaaf and company aren't afraid to let down their hair a bit. Sure, you still get the carefully looped harmonies - a delight to hear in the excellent "Whale" - but the music also takes on a more desperate and raucous tone, especially on new songs like "The Shake Down."
As I watched the stage transform for Sharon Van Etten's set, my excitement grew - especially when I spied Aaron Dessner of The National fiddling around with wires. "Hello, everybody. Thanks for bearing the rain," Van Etten said by way of introduction. She began her set with "Peace Signs."
With her honest lyrics and down-to-earth demeanor, and soul-soothing voice, Sharon Van Etten makes quick work of winning over the crowd. (I mean the woman dedicated a song to her dad in honor of Father's Day. How nice, right?)
As an added bonus, the last three songs of her set featured two additional musicians - Ben Lanz (on trombone) and Aaron Dessner (guitar) who is apparently producing Van Etten's next record.
Then, after a brief interlude from our sponsor, Zach Condon and company emerged to a round of applause that almost seemed more fitting for a Justin Bieber show than for Beirut.
Though Condon composed much of his newer music with a 17-piece mariachi band in mind, the six people on stage impressively flushed out the sound by constantly rotating through an assortment of instruments, including: French horn, tuba, drums, trombone, trumpet, accordion, and piano. But it was the ukulele - the crux to much of his earlier catalog - that seemed to garner the most applause.
After two short sets, it was nice to see Beirut take their time on stage. The band enthusiastically played through their set - no doubt inspired not only by the dedication of the rain-braving crowd but also by the stunning scenery in the distance. "It's nice to be playing for the Chrysler and the Empire State Building," Condon remarked. Of course with such a healthy play time (19 songs, by my count), they covered both the standards ("Postcards From Italy," "Elephant Gun," "Nantes," "Scenic World," and "Mount Wroclai" to name a few) and a handful of newer songs.
Though I was tempted to stay longer, if there was an encore, I didn't see it. After missing out on Seapony twice last week, I dashed out of the park and over to Pianos, where I made it in time to hear the last five songs from the delightful Seattle group. For the record, it was totally worth it.
More pictures from the Beirut show below...
Double Rainbow photo (via yfrog)
Sharon Van Etten