photo from Crackers United
2007 will be remembered as a year New York played both host and muse to a new crop of musical and artistic talents, who expressed with clarity and brilliance just what can happen when culture and human experience collide. Among the bands the city lays claim — including The National, Vampire Weekend, LCD Soundsystem, Phosphorescent, and MGMT — is Yeasayer, who touched down during those hot lazy days of summer, heavy with humidity and foreboding.
The first beats “2080,” drowning in bass and overlapping with electronic clips and cymbals, introduced new audiences to the dramatics and tension of Chris Keating. Yeasayer is not just another splash in the pan indie rock band. One can listen loyally to their debut release, All Hour Cymbals, and barely reach the depths Keating has created with fellow members, Anand Wilder, Ira Wolf Tuton and Luke Fasano. But to understand all that this band has to offer, you must see them live. I say this with a passion that cannot be expressed in words, for the sound and life that this band owns as a unit in front of an audience is something that must be experienced and revered. So it was incredibly fitting that they helped close out the monthly Friction showcase for 2007.
The night began with opener Team Robespierre, who whipped the crowd into attention with frenzied, fierce songs that ticked with all the ammunition and spit of classic punk ballads without losing the traditional sounds of New York rock and roll. For those experiencing Yeasayer for the first time, there was an air of expectancy and surprise. The band began their set in the back of the audience and, slowly and deliberately, made their way towards the seemingly small Mercury Lounge stage. All at once, the foursome engaged at the front with a sudden burst of sound and dramatics. Posed like a preacher presiding over his last sermon, Keating sweated and swayed with each song he had stashed within his tightly clenched fists. During “Wintertime,” a track built around wealth and ambition, the audience was at once hushed and stunned. As a unit, Yeasayer looped their movements in time within the circles within their songs. Each studied in their respective roles as bassist, guitarist, singer and drummer, they weave their individual elements together with astonishing precision and dedication. The sold out crowd found themselves lost in their passion and rejoiced in their own release.
photo by Tod Seelie
This is not the norm for a band with only a debut album and a year or so of touring. One might even venture that this is not the norm for a band with a multitude of albums and years of touring under their belt. This is Yeasayer. It is daunting task even to transform into words the effect their music has when it comes in contact with a breathing, impressionable audience. To convince others to see Yeasayer live, even if they do not harbor the same feelings of tenderness for their songs or curiosity for their performance, the best you can do is put on their track “No Need to Worry,” turn it up as high as your speakers will allow, and watch as they tightly close their eyes and dissolve into the cymbals.
photo by Rebecca Smeyne
video courtesy of Mr. Mammoth