It is rare for me to go to weeknight shows at The EARL anymore. For too many years, The EARL kept me up far too late, and my current day job is somewhat inflexible when it comes to the hours i am in the office. It takes a lot of planning for me to be able to see a weeknight show, so i only go to see very special acts. One such act is Active Child, a very unique band with fascinating vocals. I really liked their debut record You Are All I See, and i was really curious to see how well they pull it off live.
I arrived just after 9 PM, and within ten minutes the first act took the stage. This was a four-piece band with keyboards called Superhumanoids. They said they were from LA, and proceeded to play a very fun set of new wavish pop.
Their sound was all crisp percussion, steady bass, chiming guitar, and layers of keys. The songs had fun beats and happy melodies. At times the layers of the songs got complex, reminding me of Antarctica, which was a pleasant surprise. I really enjoyed the layers of keys and the chiming guitar interacting with each other.
However, i think the band was at its best when the female keyboardist sang and focused on the keyboards less. Her voice was light, and with more guitar in their songs the band reminded me of High Violets.
Overall i really enjoyed them.
Superhumanoids tore their gear down quickly and a table of electronics was moved into the middle of the stage. All of the wiring of the gear must have been done beforehand, because second act Balam Acab was performing within 10 minutes of Superhumanoids leaving the stage.
I was not sure what i was expecting with Balam Acab. I have the album Wander / Wonder and find it to be pretty good mellow electronica. It has that deeply rumbling bass and sped-up female vocals typical of dubstep, but there is a bit of ambient and glitch thrown in as well. It makes good listening.
Well, Balam Acab is apparently one guy, who played in a hoodie (naturally) crouched over a table in front of screen on which he projected video loops.
The loops started with the image of his album cover.
The video loops were of nature themes -- forests and muddy puddles, that sort of thing. But otherwise, he was a guy in the dark over a table of gear. As far as i could tell he might have been playing solitaire on that laptop. And sonically -- it was pretty much like listening to the album, which is good, mind you, but i kind of expect more from a live performance.
This was about all of the "performance" anyone could see.
Balam Acab is that type of electronic artist that doesn't really have any stage show. I stood up front for about 10 minutes trying to get a decent photo in the dark, then i went and stood at the back, where it was cooler but still sounded good, pretty much like the CD playing on a really good sound system. There was absolutely no reason for me to watch the stage. All of this makes me ask -- why does he do this? Why even "perform" live? Balam Acab is studio music, and really there is no reason anyone should ever need to see a "performance" like this again. This kind of thing really annoys me. I feel like the artist cheated me out of my money -- his share of my ticket price. The Balam Acab set of this show brings the overall score down. Without him, this would probably rate six sponges.
It took him about 40 minutes to let his CD play while he played solitaire and chatted on Facebook, but it was still well before 11 by the time he was done. He and the soundguy carried his table off stage, and Active Child quickly began setting up their gear.
The stage theme was "classical Roman / Greek".
I guess when you play harp, that only makes sense.
They played as a three-piece, Pat Grossi joined by a drummer playing an electronic drum set and a guy with keyboards, bass, and guitar (not all at once). Grossi set up a harp and also had some keyboards set off to the side.
They started to play at just after eleven PM, and i was amazed at how well the sound live was similar to the sound on the record. Grossi really can sing like that, without effects. And he is pretty good with the harp too, and i say this admitting that he is only the second harpist i have ever seen live.
They were pretty energetic, and did a really good job. Some songs seemed a little longer and jammier than on the record. Playing House, which has a rapper guesting on the recorded version, came across really well. Without the rapper, Grossi's voice really soared here, and the funky riff the bassist was playing worked well with the voice and the clipper drumming coming out of the electronic kit. I especially liked that he ended this song with a nice, long, harp jam, Grossi just plucking away at the strings while the rhythm grooved behind him.
But i have no complaints about his show. He and the band did a very fine job of actualizing their record in a live setting. In fact, when they finished just before midnight, i was sad that the show was over. Well, Active Child seem to be a band on their way up, and i hope i get the chance to see them again.
And, bonus, i was home and in bed before 12:30! Still awfully late to be at the office by 8 AM, but much better than The EARL used to be. Keep up the good work.