FRICTION NYC: Crystal Stilts, Tickley Feather & Rings @ Cakeshop 6/29

review by Sheryl Witlen
photos by Pat Parault

Each month, FRICTION NYC, a New York City-based music and culture site, curates a showcase highlighting NYC’s indie music scene, visiting acts, and DJs. On June 29, FRICTION presented Brooklyn’s Crystal Stilts who headlined the show, supported by fellow Brooklynites and Paw Tracks signees, Rings, along with PWRFL Power, now relocated to NYC from Seattle, and Philadelphia’s mysterious Tickley Feather, with Anicet spinning between sets. The whole thing took place at Manhattan’s Cakeshop, and as usual, KEXP correspondent Sheryl Witlen was there:

Little girls grow up with so many songs and stories about circles and rings that there was eventually bound to be an all-girl outfit that drew upon their collective infant memories. Nina Mehta, Abby Portner and Kate Rosko did just this, coining themselves Rings. After settling into the Brooklyn music scene, they quickly caught the eye of the Paw Tracks (Animal Collective) label with their clever cadenced melodies. Swirling motions sway throughout each of the tracks on their debut album, Black Habit, which are even more engaging when performed live. Moving forward from the crowd and immediately strapping into their instruments, the trio then opened their set heavy on instrumentation and sparse on lyrics. I imagine Rings’ music to be the perfect companion for a summer hike through dew-laden woods — sultry and slow, it leaves you mystified and elevated. Like shifting clouds, instruments drift slowly into a song and leave as quickly as they entered. Certain of their songs can be easily compared to Bjork or Bat for Lashes. Their closing number was light and jovial with a melody that seemed to play back against itself, echoing in the ears of all in attendance and making fans out of us all.

Just when I thought I had found my most beloved discovery of the night, on came Tickley Feather and I was done for. I am sometimes much harder on female vocalists than their male compatriots, which I know is my own downfall. Yet, when I find a heroine to believe in, I am the happier for it. Annie (Sachs) is like one of those wood fairies you had always imagined while reading Harry Potter or some lovely fairytale. She marches to her own tune unlike any other performer I have ever experienced. Tip-toeing in place with the most childlike expressions delicately playing across her animated face, she seemed otherworldly. During the performance, she gently cupped the microphone as if she were sharing her most beloved stories and secrets with her newly discovered friends. It is easy to see how she could fall into the company of Animal Collective and Panda Bear, as her new album has also been released by Paw Tracks. Classy and confident, she is both a woman and a child all within the same moment. Her voice trembles and sways beautifully against the echoing melodies that she conjures. Hers is a special kind of confidence that comes along only now and again in performers and I for one cannot wait to see her again.

Crystal Stilts had their work cut out for them closing this imaginative evening. Yet they managed to hold their own. Theirs is a sound heavily influenced by some of the greats such as Velvet Underground, Jesus and Mary Chain, and the Beach Boys, and they provided the perfect summer soundtrack to a sultry Sunday evening riddled with thunderstorms and humidity. Band members JB Townsend, Brad Hargett, Andy Adler, and Frankie Rose are groovy and chic. The heavy bass contrasted with tingly tambourine were my favorite aspects of their instrumental sound. As I slowly danced in my spot, they cast rhythms that washed over the audience in rolling waves of perfectly placed movements and slurred yet lush lyrics. Whereas none of the performers throughout the evening cast a glance towards the closely drawn cast assembled at the base of the small stage, Crystal Stilts was by far the crowd favorite. The entire night, though, felt like a gathering of friends closing out the perfect June evening together, simply sitting back and playing their favorite sounds. It was a welcome and refreshing change from the (also great) collection of electronic-themed FRICTION shows I have attended previously.

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