Thursday, August 11, 2005

Getting the Clap from a Devotchka

Devotchka and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah @ South Street Seaport 8/10/05
Despite my tired state on this muggy Wednesday evening (I got home at 2 AM the night before and didn't get to bed until 3 or so), I ventured out to Pier 17 at South Street Seaport to catch this very interesting double-bill. The fact that it was free didn't hurt, either. First and foremost, I must say that in all my years of going to free summer shows at Pier 17, I've NEVER seen as many people crammed in there as I saw last night for this double bill that was sponsored by East Village Radio. When I got there, current Pitchfork-approved indie buzz-band of the moment Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (say their name correctly without the "And" between "Hands" and "Say" or the hipster police will come to get you) was already playing. I managed to squeeze in sort of towards the middle of the crowd on the left-hand side and catch the last 15-20 minutes of their set. Honestly, I liked what I heard and the songs that they played live were considerably better, at least for the most part, than what's on their hot-selling (well for a band still without any sort of record deal though I'm sure they'll have one very soon or at least before the year is out) self-titled CD, which I've found so-so thus far after several listens. All in all, it was servicable nerd-rock in the vein of '77 Talking Heads or even the early Feelies (though not nearly as good as either), with singer Alec Ounsworth prancing around the stage like a young David Byrne or even a young Jonathan Richman. The major difference between them and the bands I just compared them to is that they use a lot of keyboards and a few other electronics as well, thus updating their indie-rock template for the new millenium. Overall, they're a good live band with a lot of potential, but just not the second coming that others seem to think they are. Also, it was a bit distracting watching them since about half of the people who were there (or at least the ones standing next to me) were talking over their entire set. What's the point of making the effort to come out to a show (even a free one) if you're just gonna talk right through it? I mean, I can understand the occasional comment or between-song chatter, but when a band is playing and people are trying to listen, please shut the fuck up. Maybe some of the kids (it was a really young crowd for the most part) there have a lot more free time than I do and don't value or cherish the thrill of going out to shows and seeing bands, but if they don't, please stay home! I know this plea will fall on deaf ears as there have always been trendy assholes who just come to be seen and ruin it for genuine music lovers, but I just had to vent.

Anyway, back to the music. After their main set ended, I thought that The Clap (look guys, I think you're pretty cool, but you're asking for people, including myself, to call you that by choosing such a long and dorky band name) were gonna come back and do an encore, but unfortunately they didn't. Of course, some people left after The Clap's set, so I was able to move up towards the front and in the middle for Devotchka's set. To my surprise, though, lots of people stayed for Devotchka, which was good. I was expecting a mass exodus after The Clap, but I'm glad that the listeners piled in there for the buzz band stuck around and had an open mind. Honestly I didn't know much about them at all over than that they're from Denver, but I really liked what I'd previously heard, which is their 200o CD Super Melodrama. Their music is almost indescribable. They're a 4-piece consisting of a vocalist/guitarist along with a violinist/accordion player, a tuba/cello player and a drummer who played trumpet on a few songs as well. Instead of the guitarist playing the main melody lines, they're played by the violinist/accordion player as the guitarist strums the rhythm and chruns out chords, enabling him to focus on his singing. Also, at a few points in the set, he "played" something that made a weird, whoosing noise when he conducted it. I've never seen anyone do that. Oh and his vintage mic was cool, too. That instrumentation alone makes them completely unique (at least for a band playing rock and roll or something resembling it), but better yet, they write wonderful, lovelorn songs with wonderful instrumental passages that are equally influenced by Southwestern music as well as traditional Eastern European sounds. Imagine a polka in a Polish beer hall and a Tex-Mex hoedown, but at the same time, and you're sort of close. However, despite the fact that their music is imminently danceable, very few people were dancing in this way too self-conscious (or way too cool for school) city. Not that I'm not innocent in this regard, either, but that has to do with self-consciousness. I love to dance, but I'm just not that good at it and I don't like others looking when I do it unless they're dancing as well. As Craig Finn of The Hold Steady said last week when I saw them at Bowery Ballroom, "What's the deal with Teaching Indie Kinds to Dance? Ever seen an indie kid dance? Indie kids shouldn't dance" (I'm paraphrasing here). I don't necessarily agree, but I do see his point. Anyhow, if you have an opportunity to see this very unique band, definitely do it. Meanwhile, though, you can go to their site and download some mp3s if you go here.


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