See Also: Q&A with Alex Bleeker of Real Estate
"That's all from us," Real Estate frontman Martin Courtney told the crowd, which stood nodding before him as the last notes of the encore washed across the Gothic Theatre. His voice conveyed no more or less emotion than it had during the rest of the band's set. Real Estate is like music on handfuls of anti-depressants: There are highs and lows, but they just aren't very extreme.
There was very little movement from the band, except to nod slightly along. There weren't many chord changes or bridges, and despite having a few pedals, there was no appreciable shifts in guitar tone. There was very little banter with the crowd, or amongst band members. The outfit came out on stage and knocked out an hour long set without much acknowledgement of the crowd.
People cheered in recognition of popular songs like "It's Real," but there was never an occasion for screaming adulation. Perhaps the most passionate aspect of the show was the flock of eighteen year olds making out all over the place. Apparently, this is the sort of music that puts 'tweens in the mood to commit egregious public displays of affection.
Now, when a band makes a style of music called dream pop, which sounds like a sonic cousin to shoegaze, you don't exactly expect guys to kick over amps or jump in the crowd, but you would like to see something more than a couple people staring at their instruments while playing hypnotic loops of indie-trance that seem to change only in volume. What some critics describe as the band's "cohesiveness," you can argue is actually songs that are nearly indistinguishable from each other after about thirty minutes.
Real Estate's 2009 debut received high praise from Pitchfork. And while in the studio, the songs have a lot of post-Broken Social Scene swelling indie sensibility with a hint of nostalgic, Santo & Johnny-esque guitar tones. Live, the band's sound is a bit more like watered down Sonic Youth, a diluted version of the poppier aspirations of Daydream Nation. There are long, looping instrumentals frosted by the kind of plucky guitar lines that are critical to the indie zeitgeist since hints of world music began edging into scores of Brooklyn bands six or seven years ago. What started out as infectiously catchy soon became dry and repetitive when spread across a dozen songs.
The Twerps, an Australian four-piece that's supporting Real Estate on this leg of the tour proved to be the highlight of the evening. The members had wonderfully civilized accents, saying please and thank you, and playing some great, jangly pop that touched on a diverse range of influences from the Chocolate Watchband to the Cure. If they'd all been wearing black clothes and wayfarers, you might have confused them for the Velvet Underground at certain points.
Overall, this was a peculiar evening in a Memento-esque sort of way, in that it seemed to be playing backwards: The crowd's energy was the direct inverse of a band's energy tonight. My Body Sings Electric played their hearts out to forty-some people and brought a better light show than the rest of the bands. Real Estate, meanwhile, closed with a packed floor of woo-hooing fans after only a minimum level of exertion.
My Body Sings Electric was the wrong band for this bill. The group's big sound, a highly technical strain of hard rock, high-energy stage presence and technical proficiency seemed out of place on a bill with super stoney dream pop. The group gave it all it had despite getting very little back from the crowd as a whole, and it seems like a matter of time before the band is headlining rooms much bigger than this one.
Personal Bias: I've never actually yawned during a headliner's set before -- until now.
Random Detail: The Twerps ate dinner at Moe's, and the band's lead singer, Marty, says he endorses the ribs there. He was pleasantly surprised, as apparently, they don't serve ribs in Melbourne.
By the way: The irony well is going to dry up by 2014.
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