Grizzly Bear concert review

Uptown Theatre

April 5, 2013

Concert hat trick for the week of April 2...complete. Not a bad ending to this little musical marathonita. Question: Do you like cats? I don't. I mean, I don't actively dislike them (although for a 5 or 6 year stretch I did...but that's probably a discussion for a completely different kind of blog/website). I tell you this for a reason. Here it is: I like Grizzly Bear a lot. Their album, Shields, was my album of the year in 2012. They've been on my short list of bands I've never seen that I really want to see. I like them so much that during the middle of a song by The Joy Formidable (the band that preceded Grizz), I turned to one Ryan Azar (one of my concert teammates this night who demanded to be named, first and last name, in this review), and said "I'm going to go buy a cat shirt."

And then I went and bought a cat shirt.

I'm kind of a concert t-shirt guy. I don't really care if you feel a certain way about that. I like them, and I buy them and I wear them. So, I wanted to have a GB shirt. And the only one that was the right color (not black, not another color I have a lot of) had a huge, 3-eyed cat up top and a bunch of smaller, regular amount of eyed cats at the bottom. See how much I like them (GB, not cats, obv.)? Awesome. 

There's not a lot that bothers me more than when someone who's never heard a certain band asks me what that certain band sounds like and I can't find a suitable two-other-bands-hybrid to paint the picture. It has happened to me twice in the past 3 months (once when recommending Alt-J, and again at this concert as I tried to describe GB to a friend of a friend who had drunkenly stumbled into The Uptown Theatre). After a brief conference with other GB experts, we decided they are the offspring of a semi-consensual Radiohead and Fleet Foxes coitus event. That's as close as we could get. It still kind of angers me because I feel like people evoke Radiohead way too often when trying to describe some random fuckstick indie nonsense band, just because they use a gadget or two that isn't a guitar. But hey, we were put on the spot.

Now that it's clear as river water who they sound like, I can proceed to describe how the four young lads from Brooklyn sounded on this particular night...Good and not great. Or maybe great, but not special. Or maybe special, but not as special as their albums. Actually, it was probably great and somewhat special, but less special than my overly bloated expectations expected. Which is entirely my fault (and maybe Sigur Ros').

As I was taking in the show, a word kept rising in my mind when I felt like there was something missing from this performance. What is it about GB albums that I love so much, but am not getting right now? Nuance. It's nuance. Their recorded music is nuanced. There's subtlety. There's white space between the notes. There's inter-note pauses without the clashing ring of a cymbal tying one note to the next. Somehow that got lost a little in the din of the theater.  

At one point during the show I sensed this was being picked up by one of my other concert teammates this night, Dave Palmatier (who also and with no less fervor demanded to be named, first and last name, in this review). Here's his direct quote, unprovoked by me: "It's missing some of the nuance."

I shit you not. This is how we talk to each other. What a buncha concert assholes we are.

But, as nitpicky as it was to notice that, it was true. And I don't think it was a reprove of the live show as much as it was a recognition of the difference between performing a certain piece of music live, and recording it in a studio environment. It would have been just as easy for a big GB fan to have seen this show and preferred the subtle changes the live show offered. It was definitely "rockier." Who knows, maybe I'm just looking for something negative to say because it's more interesting than saying: "I done seen three terrific shows in one week!"

Before I continue on another interesting aspect of GB's music, here's a decent vid of "Ready, Able" from the KC show:

As you might (or might not if you didn't watch the above video) have noticed, the signing responsibility in Grizzly Bear is almost a 50/50 share between Ed Droste (tall) and Daniel Rossen (not tall, Paul Simony). As a fan, you'd think I would have made a decision by now as to which of the two "lead" singers I prefer. And I think I have. Until the other one sings his part, then I think I have again. Because they're both that good. And unique. They are. I guess If I had to choose, I'm team Droste, but I only came to that conclusion after seeing them live, and I can't give a pragmatic reason why. Let's just say it's an energy thing. A presence. 

This little 50/50 thing did bring up an interesting conversation, however. What other band truly splits their lead vocal responsibilities? I'm not talking a prominent back-up vocalist a-la Nathan Followill either. If you have one, feel free to share in the comments section. Here's some that were thrown out that I don't entirely endorse: Pinback, Milli Vanilli, Hall and Oates, She and Him (although guy/girl shared responsibility is a lot easier to find...Fleetwood Mac was offered). There's got to be some, right? I don't know.

What a week. Not a bad show in the bunch, although writing reviews on shows you've chosen to pay money to see because you know you already like them kind of lends itself to softball reviews. It reminded me of being in NorCal wine country and tasting wines in wineries where you're only getting good wine at the ideal temperature in a beautiful setting with friends. You're probably not going to get some opened-five-days-ago vinegar wine. Maybe I should attend an Animal Collective or Offspring show so I can unleash some music reviewer vitriol. No. I shouldn't do that.

Side note before I post another GB vid from the KC show. At about the mid point of the show, a guy who had to have been the result of hammered Drew Carey eating gay Drew Carey turned to me and said: "You remind me of somebody that I used to know."

Me: Uneasy smile, brain searching for context...

Drunk Drew Carey who ate Gay Drew Carey: "You don't get the reference?"

Me: Unintelligible sound...

DDC who ate GDC: "Like the Gotye song!"

Me (mentally): concerts are wonderous and confounding places...

The End.

Here's another vid...it's long, but it's kind of a 3-fer: