Live Reviews: The Cave Singers and Yeasayer, Metric

This week, we have two reviews, one local and the other from Boston but featuring a local favorite.

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The Cave Singers with Yeasayer, Great Scott, Allston, MA 10/8
review by Miriam Lamey
pictures by Ben Zalman

The KEXP-sponsored gig at the Great Scott in Allston, MA, featured Brooklyn-based Yeasayer and Seattle natives The Cave Singers. Both bands played phenomenal sets to a densely packed venue filled with an interesting range of characters, from typical indie kids to hippy types. Yet all concertgoers seemed to be impressed by the acts, judging from their enthusiastic applause and occasional whooping.

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Yeasayer hit the stage first, opening up with a curious song that sounded part straight-up psychedelic rock, part electronic indie. Guitarist Anand Wilder and bassist Ira Wolf Tuton sported bright colored shirts and flowing hair, presenting a sixties hippie vibe, but Yeasayer’s music was far from chilled out; their trippy sounds layered light riffs over electronic samples, guitar loops and other weird noises. The effect was electrifying: a big sound, full of dynamic weirdness that together made for some solid, rocking tracks that highlighted the band’s imaginative music and astounding style. The lads burst out some Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young-inspired harmonies and the guitarist, bassist and singer, Chris Keating sounded fantastic as the vocals arched over all the other sounds. During the set, Keating veered between hazily swaying about the stage and leaping around while he threw new samples over the music. At one point, he played a thick, echoing drum loop that sounded decidedly like Tears for Fears but Yeasayer surprisingly swooped into a heavy, retro track that highlighted their thick basslines and pounding drums.

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Toward the middle of the set, Yeasayer burst out their single, “2080,” and without the sounds like children’s laughter plus other unidentifiable noises, this track was anthemic and powerful, losing its resemblance to Animal Collective’s tunes. In brief, “2080” sounded brilliant, the vocals almost pleading while the tight guitar riffs wailed away in the background. Yeasayer closed their set with another notable song, “Sunrise,” and left the crowd dazed but certainly impressed.

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The Cave Singers shifted the musical pace as they began their set. The ethereal opening acoustic notes of “Seeds of Night’ – also the lead track from their latest album Invitation Songs – tinkled through the venue, and as Peter Quirk ‘s voice resonated around the room, the audience fell silent. This beautifully mournful tune conjures up brief images of Bob Dylan, but don’t write off The Cave Singers as Dylan wannabes. These Seattle lads personalize their music by imbuing it with a darkly folky edge or throw in some extraordinary instruments, such as a washboard and maracas during “Dancing on Our Graves.” And trust me, seeing this in Allston was amusing, but definitely innovative. By the same token, such a creative approach gives The Cave Singers’ folky, Americana rock an offbeat, non-conformist feel and consequently the band came across as personable and imaginative. The lads were relaxed onstage, and presented an accessible set that sounded clear and tight. However, at one point, Quirk almost seemed a bit bemused at the crowd size. While it seemed like a great gathering for a Monday night, Quirk joked that he probably wouldn’t be trying to crowd surf later in the set. Clearly, the lads are accustomed to larger audiences, but they played as if in front of thousands.

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The biggest surprise of The Cave Singers’ live performance was the sheer strength of Quirks’ vocals. On the band’s recorded material, he sounds as if he has a more breathy, childish voice; during the gig, his singing transmitted such power and intensity. He hit each note and allowed the melodies to shine. And there was nothing childlike about that. Quirk is definitely talented and with the solid band behind him, supporting the melodies, offering up tight harmonies and beautiful acoustic guitar work, the sonic effect was intoxicating. He sounded best during “New Monuments,” as the song begins with vocals only. The Cave Singers chose not to do an encore, but their set brimmed with great talent and presented such a unique sound, that their performance was more than satisfying.

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Metric, The Showbox, Seattle WA, 10/9/2007
review & pictures by Meredith Tucker

Emily Haines is no soft skeleton. I was under the initial impression from listening to Haines’ hazy vocals and intimate words that she was delicate, not pure, but delicate – something akin to a wilting flower that, while it has been through an obvious series of hardships and woe, is still beautiful even if dying. My gut instinct told me that Haines, both in Metric as well as in her solo act, was to be cherished and treated as something from a fairy tale or a fantasy: unfathomable, untouchable, perfect. Those are my feelings about the records. Old World Underground has unfathomable depth in its prose and is untouchable as number one, in my opinion, by any other dance punk disco act in modern music’s standards. It’s the perfect after-party record, the perfect “I want to get drunk and make out,” record. It’s perfect in its flaws, in the raw, uncut lyrics and the heartbreaking though pensive and innovative means of storytelling. How did I ever think that Emily Haines was like a wilting flower?

No, Emily Haines is no snow white. Far from a fairy tale (unless I missed the one where Snow White was possessed by a banshee), Haines will trick you. She does right by her trickery. Just when you think you’re bored – bam! – something in her eyes that you can see no matter how far away from her you really are, something in the way her unkempt golden, Courtney-Love-like tresses and the Jimi Hendrix t-shirt dress and the ways that she moves will trap you back in.

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It was something like that for me when they played “Dead Disco” was played a few songs into their set. Bored by openers Crystal Castles (not bad, but two or three dance punk songs in a row that are hardly in the same stratosphere as Metric is about all one needs – they seem to be the type of band that, by song 4, you’re supposed to have forgotten how many vodka sours you have had and are just dancing, not paying attention to the Nintendo bleeps or the disinterested European girl vocals that glide over the synth-pop rhythms), I felt a yawn approaching when a sudden burst of red light and the glitter of the disco ball suddenly vanished those thoughts.

At the time, I had been thinking – lamenting, rather – on the thrust into the unfamiliar, the lack of the Old World Metric that I had been hearing during the first few songs, that my craving for a wonderful, bright, vibrant and innocent dance party was not to be satisfied and that my world view, my view that Emily Haines was some soft, delicate flower, was not entirely accurate. It had been rather disconcerting.

The crowd pushed and shoved and danced its way through Dead Disco and much of the rest of the evening, with only a few pauses for some of the slower moments in Old World Underground, Grow Up and Blow Away, and new material. From there on out it was war. It was dance or be danced. It was dance to stand up, or stand up to dance – by “Combat Baby” I couldn’t even tell anymore if I was dancing because I was having such a good time or if the good time was dancing me. In true Showbox fashion, the floors finally caved to the crowd’s fanatics, and whether you wanted to dance or not, you couldn’t help it (or you’d simply just fall over), and a dance broke loose. It was a dance party that will easily rival Girl Talk at the Capitol Hill Block Party this past summer as my favorite dance party this year.

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But the thing about Metric that is so mesmerizing and what sets them apart from bands such as The Sounds or Franz Ferdinand or generic indie poppy dance punk is that there is conviction in Haines’ lyrics, conviction in her performance, and conviction in her records. From the vague storytelling, a sort of “I can’t impose this upon you, but I still know what you’re going through,” sort of storytelling, to Haines’ calamitous ruin that she brings to the stage, Metric are not a band you want to mess with. Haines is not delicate. She knows she can create a dance party, and she knows that it takes a need to dance to do it. She knows she can tell it like it is. She knows that behind the smoke and mirrors of the flashing lights and the disco ball at the Showbox that Metric is about having a great fucking time, regardless of outside pressures, faults, and falsehoods. We might have fought the war, but the war won’t stop indeed. Whatever. A good fucking time it was.

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2 Comments

  1. kurisub
    Posted October 10, 2007 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Certainly agree with you on the “whether you wanted to dance or not, you couldn’t help it” part, every Metric show I’ve been to, I can’t help but rock out and jump around, Emily’s energy really is contagious.

  2. I was there
    Posted October 11, 2007 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Crystal Castles were the best live band of the year for me. I seriously could not understand what anyone saw in Metric though. They were so “blah” me and my friends had to leave. Our differences of opinion are amazing.

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