Twin Sister @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
The last two nights of Northside were decent, if not a bit predictable. Though I was curious about Kelly Pratt (Arcade Fire/Beirut)'s new band Bright Moments (they played their first show at the Luaka Bop showcase), I decided to play it safe on Saturday night and headed over to the Music Hall of Williamsburg where I was familiar with the last three artists on the bill.
Somehow, the venue was actually running ahead of schedule, leaving me with only one song from the peppy Brooklyn collective Ava Luna. Luckily, I got my fix of group vocals from the next band, London's Allo Darlin'. The mood in the room (both on stage and off) was lively. As if attempting to match the vibrant performance, a number of people near the front of the floor danced enthusiastically (or rather, jumped up and down) for the entirety of the set. The band dedicated one song to Clarence Clemons who passed away earlier that night.
Twin Sister rounded out the evening. With vocalist Andrea Estella's shifting persona, you never really know what you're going to get. This time, Estella was decked out in a long white wig, oversized glasses (sans lenses), and a demure white button-up blouse, complete with matching bowtie. Whether the changing aesthetic is driven by a shyness or confidence is unclear, but it seems to be in keeping with her dramatic and affected vocals.
Toward the mid-section of their set, Twin Sister showcased a handful of songs from their upcoming album, due out in September on Domino. With the combination of charming low-key songs and funkier electro-pop songs, like the new single "Bad Street," the Brooklyn group can sometimes feel a bit schizophrenic to me, but they handled the shifting tempos in their set like pros. After a few punchier songs, nearly everyone in the band cleared the stage save for Eric Cardona and Estella, who stayed on to play a couple of their quieter and more intimate songs, including the lovely "Nectarine" and one from their upcoming album. Far from making the audience lose interest, these were the portions of the show that seemed to garner the most applause.
Mount Eerie @ St. Cecilia's Church (this photo by Michael Barron)
After a string of nights traipsing between venues and navigating the particularly unkind MTA service changes, Northside concluded where it began for me - in St. Cecilia's Church.
Though it was definitely Mount Eerie that sold me on the show, one of the biggest surprises of the long weekend was the first opener, Wyrd Visions. The set-up was simple - just a guy and his guitar, but within seconds of starting to play, the crowd was locked in a silent reverence.
With his hair slicked back and white collar shirt, Colin Bergh serenaded crowd with his long, melodious instrumental interludes and soothing vocals. Though I had never heard his music before, it somehow seemed both comfortingly familiar and organic. What better opener for Mount Eerie than a man who sings of things like ghosts and nature? The setting of the church only added to Bergh's stark mystique.
Up next was Nicholas Krgovich who played his own set before joining Phil Elverum for the main act. In his SADE t-shirt, Krgovich paced around the small space, clutching two mics and singing over samples of sultry saxes and hip hop beats. After a few songs, he was joined by Katie Eastburn who lent her vocal talents for a handful of songs, including a cover of the Prefab Sprout song, "Doo Wop in Harlem."
By the time Mount Eerie began, the church had filled out nicely. As a longtime Phil Elverum fan, I was eager to learn what had made the set list, but from a brief conversation with Elverum before the show, I knew not to expect anything too old. The show began and ended with songs from the darker and heavier album Wind's Poem ("Wind Speaks" and "Stone's Ode," respectively). Sandwiched in the middle were even newer songs that Elverum told me hadn't yet been recorded.
Even though he didn't delve too far back into the discography, I was still on the edge of my seat for every song... and yes, a bit heart broken that there was no encore. Whether a product of my ever diminishing attention span or the quickly changing music scene, much of what I listen to has a pitifully short shelf life. Elverum's music is one of the only things that I've held onto year after year, even as he turned in his hushed, lo-fi recordings and ventured into more metal territory. In stark contrast to the "ironic" bullshit that seems to drive some of today's trends, there is something in Elverum's steady voice and calm, down-to-earth demeanor that deeply resonates with me and reminds me why I fell in love with music in the first place.
My only gripe of the evening (apart from the brevity of Elverum's set, of course) is that I didn't have enough money to purchase both The Glow, pt. 2 on vinyl and some music from Wyrd Visions.
Gabriel & The Hounds