Beards, Blazers & Glasses Or Grizzly Bear: Dumb Name, Good Band
Generally, it's a safe bet to assume that a band willing to take a picture of themselves in front of a place called Gay Seed Inc., and then post it on their Myspace page is funny. But funny doesn't necessarily equate to a good live set. And to be honest, even though I enjoyed Grizzly Bear's recent Warp Records release Yellow House, I wasn't expecting much from their stage show.
For those who haven't heard it, Yellow House is a medley of frozen vocals, strings and electronic flourishes wrapped around mostly simple but shimmering acoustic melodies. Though the band has been lumped into the freak-folk category, whoever assigned them that label was clearly wrong. Grizzly Bear are not freak-folk if nothing else for the fact that there's nothing freaky about Yellow House, nor the band itself. Animal Collective is freak-folk. Joanna Newsom is freak-folk (and mind-alteringly atrocious). Devendra Banhart is freak-folk. Don't believe me. Then check the photo below.
Devendra Banhart: Having an Angry Conversation With His Cup of Coffee After Taking 6 Tabs of Acid.If you've been paying attention to the Internet music websites over the past month or so, you've probably noticed the nearly unanimous praise being lavished upon Yellow House, as both Pitchfork and Stylus managed to bestow Best New Music and Stylus Recommends Honors on the album. For those of you who don't know, getting Stylus and Pitchfork to agree on something is usually about as difficult as watching an episode of King of Queens and trying to find something funny.
So one can assume that Yellow House is good. Which it is. But while the melodies on the record are certainly beautiful, the electronic beeps and squiggles interesting, the tone tranquilizing, one notices one crucial flaw with the record on first listen: the thing sounds ice-cold and dispassionate. Whereas with a singer/songwriter like Elliot Smith, the vocals almost always sound raw and drenched in pain, Ed Droste's vocals on Yellow House seem more even-keeled and detached, as though he sang them directly after taking six vicious lung-clearing bong rips.
Which is why as much as I admired the album, I was skeptical of the band. After all, there's nothing worse than sitting at a show bored for an hour straight, watching a band listlessly blow through their set, hoping that they'll be done by midnight so that they can chase girls in striped shirts and fishnet stalkings around Silverlake.
Grizzly Bear Unleashing a Particularly Ferocious Guitar Solo
But Grizzly Bear live was anything but dull, as the band tore through a captivating hour-long set, brimming with energy, their songs pregnant with emotion and subtle textures often unnoticeable on the album. Lead singer, Ed Droste displayed ample charisma, often engaging in sarcastic banter with the crowd, when not unleashing some Beach Boys, CSNY-esque harmonizing with partner Daniel Rossen. Meanwhile, Chistopher Bear (I sincerely hope that name's a coincidence) is the group's secret weapon, keeping a steady rhythmic drumbeat throughout, always managing to keep the tempo afloat. Simultaneously, Chris Taylor whirled around on a grab-bag of instruments, playing the keyboards, woodwinds and the occasional flute solo.
The performance was one of the finest I've seen all year. One of those shows where you can't wait to go home and put on the album because you just know that it will have gained a greater resonance in its aftermath. Each song presented in a live setting seemed to explode in shades of color that they hadn't previously possessed, displaying layers that hadn't previously revealed themselves. This is the band that Animal Collective should be. Grizzly Bear has not only produced one of the albums of the year, they've managed to become a coherent and dynamic live band that has the potential to become one of the best in indie rock, provided they continue in this direction. They are currently on the road, opening for TV on the Radio and I highly recommend checking them out if possible. Their tour dates are on their Myspace page. After seeing Grizzly Bear live, I can honestly say that its safe to believe the hype. This band is very very good.
And if my opinion isn't enough for you, check out Audio Deficit Disorder's review of the Spaceland show, complete with pictures and a rave review., or The Rawking Refuses to Stop, who also had high praise for the recent show. As did, Brooklyn Vegan and Stereogum who had positive things to say about the band's recent NYC jaunt.
Grizzly Bear: "On a Neck, On a Spit" (right-click, save as)
Grizzly Bear: "Little Brother" (right-click, save as)