Concert Reviews

Monolith 2009, Day One: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Girl Talk, Of Montreal, the Walkmen and more

Page 3 of 6

Gregory Alan Isakov, 1:30 p.m. The Antlers, 1:40 p.m.

What it was like: The weather.

No, not crappy - cold and gray, crystalline lines of melody and glorious grumbling feedback. They write compositions, not songs, and they're aimed at the pit of your stomach. The weather favors the WOXY stage, where it's warm and dry, but Antlers could have packed that place anyway. As it was, all the casual observer could do was stand by the doorway and catch glimpses of the bobbing head of the delicate singer. There was a pause for equipment malfunction but it was swiftly solved. This Monolith crew is a well-oiled machine.

Verdict: A pleasant band at the right time, but I wouldn't buy the album. -- KM

Speakeasy Tiger, 2 p.m.

What it was like: Reliving the flair and sass of the best female vocalists from the '80s in a contemporary setting.

It's not hard to peg down Kyle Simmons' influences.

For that matter, it's not too difficult to trace the musical roots for the rest of Speakeasy Tiger. Simmons' energetic, soaring vocals fall comfortably into the tradition of well know pop divas from the '80s, and the band's use of heavy synth cues and driving, syncopated guitar summon similar pop precedents from 25 years ago.

The tribute worked well in a live setting. Simmons' determined, energetic vocals recalled the soaring vocal work of acts like Pat Benetar and Bonnie Tyler, while Pete Schmidt's furious attack on the keytar and guitarist Tavis Alley's use of open-stringed riffs offered catchy, poppy moments.

The nostalgic musical cues weren't lost on the crowd. A good portion of the audience in the front tiers seemed well acquainted with the material from the album The Public, and most of the crowd seemed more than willing to clap along and sing along at Simmons' urging.

Simmons' performance did suffer from a few moments of vocal weakness, but the band's overall enthusiasm and insistence seemed to make up for the occasional miscues.

Verdict: For me, the nostalgia for '80s musical aesthetics seems a bit played out, but Speakeasy Tiger managed to make up for the familiarity of it with their energy and their rapport with the crowd. -- AG

Avi Buffalo, 2 p.m.

What it was like: A spring day in a woodland meadow.

You know Blake Sennett, the weird little guy from Rilo Kiley? Well, take him and add an endearing dollop of innocence and some post-punk guitar stylings and you've got Avi Buffalo. They've got gentle eyes, all of them, and they radiate warmth. Maybe that's just how it goes for people from Long Beach. They play sighs of happiness, friendly pop songs made from round tones and wavering vocals and tribal drums. A few fans nodded contentedly in front of the most remote stage at Monolith.

Verdict: There's so much of this going on right now (see: Wye Oak, Bon Iver, even Grizzly Bear somewhat) but I have room in my heart for Avi Buffalo. -- KM

Lydia, 2:20 p.m.

What it was like: Geddy Lee fronting an indie rock band.

A few songs into Lyidia's set, the girl standing next to me said, "I love his voice," referring to Leighton Antelman, the Arizona-based indie rock band's frontman. While the guy did have some strong pipes, although a bit nasally a la a young Geddy Lee, he didn't quite inspire the same sentiment in yours truly. But I was probably in the minority as most of the people around me were singing along to quite a few songs of the band's set, which was heavy on tunes from its latest album, Illuminate, released last year on the Low Altitude imprint.

There were some high points, like when Antelman teamed with keyboardist Mindy White for dual vocals on a few cuts, especially on the ballad "All I See" and on the final song. Just before the band launched into a solid version of "One More Day," Antelman said the band will start working on a new album near the end of the year.

Verdict: While the music was solid, the vocals took some getting used to. -- Jon Solomon

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Joe Tone
Contact: Joe Tone