Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Gabriel Kahane, Thousands and Bear Cove at the Vera Project

After the Tuesday night Programming committee meeting at the Vera Project I hung out and watched the show later that evening. I was willing to steer the show if needed, but they got a good crew with Quixote steering and all the door positions and concessions filled so they didn't need me. They even had an official sign-up for the photographer position!

Not having to work made it easier, but I only had my older Flip with me so my recording capacity was limited and I couldn't take any pictures, just high def videos. I prefer high def videos over pictures when it comes to viewing, but it's nicer still if I can post both.

I did get some good videos, just not that many. First up was Bear Cove, performing with a bass, drums, guitar, and a second percussionist. Here's the song I got recorded:

The guitarist plays some nice slide guitar and the second percussionist has switched over to a box on this number. More often he played on the congas, but I didn't get any footage of them with that instrument. While this number is quite bluesy and guitar driven, very old school, they had a nice range and did some more mainstream sounding guitar driven rock too. They were fun and I wish I had the better Flip so I could've recorded a more, they had soem great guitar work, soulful and singing and good songs. The second percussionist in particular is a nice idea, giving them a good powerful beat that drives the number along.

Next up was Thousands, two dudes playing guitar and singing intricate songs with good harmonics. Both vocals are somewhat upper register, maybe a tenor and a second tenor, I suppose. The pleasant melodies and stories in song form combined with the falsetto second vocal and acoustic guitar approach give them a Simon and Garfunkel vibe, and in my book you can do worse than that comparison - I love Simon and Garfunkel.

They use a more dynamic (i.e. much quieter) approach on occasion than is typical, which gives the song a nice light feel and allows the mid- to low tempo quiet songs to still feel like they build and get louder by just approaching typical volumes. Nice control of the dynamics of their performance, they put it to use to enhance the emotional impact of the songs but not in a sledge hammer way, just in a light and beautiful way.

This second number uses more duo/harmony vocals right from the start. The way the 2 guitar parts combine is also quite interesting. For a duo they have quite a bit going on in the live performance - both sing and play, and the careful dynamic control and changing vocal approach give a surprising range to the performance, much more than you'd expect from a "band" of 2 singer/acoustic guitar players.

Gabriel Kahane took the stage for the headlining set using an electric and an acoustic guitar, bass and drums. For the first song he (Gabriel Kahane, I assume; that sounds like a person's name, not a band) played acoustic guitar and sang solo.

Shaky camera work at first, but then it gets a little better. Quiet and intense little song, quite affecting. From the second number on they brought in the whole band. The sound is fuller and great; it ranges from quiet and simple, not that different from the solo song, to complex with harmonies on the vocals and a nice rhythm section driving along as the song builds and the chorus with it's slightly ominous harmonies returns, slightly more intense each time.

Kahane's sensibilities clearly drive both songs, they share a similar sound yet they're quite different as well. Kahane has more tools at his disposal with the band so the transition from solo to group works nicely to introduce him and his basic sound and approach, then embellish it and add layers and complexity without changing the underlying character. Very appealing work, not my usual fare - I mostly like it louder and electric, with some distortion and more of a driving beat, I want to be sweaty and out of breath when it's over - but the beauty and talent make it a moving show in a different way, it transports you without the overwhelming physical rush. Kahane does it by appealing to your sense of beauty and your intellect, a slightly more complicated way to get you to buy into the performance, but just as effective when done as well as Kahane did it.

In case you couldn't tell (I may have just pulled a Jethro Tull, calling a performer by the band name) as usual this is the first time I had ever heard any of these bands. Heck, the first time I'd ever heard of these bands was when I checked the Vera schedule. That just makes it more cool that they were so talented musically and put on such a beautiful show. I love getting to see bands that I've never heard of that kick major ass live with awesome musical skills and wonderful individual approaches to sounds and songs, each killer show is a revelation I'm glad I didn't miss. When I was a kid shows cost a fair amount and I had a limited budget and since I couldn't go to bars yet that left national touring acts. I'd mostly buy tickets to see the headlining bands that I knew well, so there was rarely such a huge element of discovery when I went to shows in my teens. I like that sense of discovery - a new band that kicks ass in some wonderful different way makes me happy! It makes me feel like I'm in on some secret that I would've hated to miss out on.

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