The Opera House
Saturday, March 3
Ever since The Festival got it really right a half decade ago and welcomed along Bon Iver (a person/band whose songs are patently absurd but it worked on the night, was undeniable) there’s been an aim to recreate that sort of magic. Not a bad effort last time around with Sufjan Stevens, obviously. Safe pair of hands. And that spot is being filled – or that’s the aim – this time around with the return of Grizzly Bear.
The band played here about five years ago – and it was okay, quite good.
Basically, if you think of them as combining the very best parts of The National’s sound with the very worst aspects of Radiohead you have some sonic glimpse into their overall vibe. Someone might tell you it’s detached, pretentious indie arse-wipe nonsense. Someone else might tell you it’s life-changing – a White People’s dark-night-of-the-soul meets urban ennui.
I’ve enjoyed some of Grizzly Bear’s music a great deal. Other times I’ve simply not understood the fuss at all.
So I was curious about this one. The band’s most recent album is quite good. The one from their previous tour is great and they have a couple of other “hits” in the catalogue (everyone waits for Two Weeks as a note of mild-euphoria).
Atrocious sound mix was the killer tonight. There are plenty of creative, colourful percussive parts that not only drive the songs but provide something of a soul as well as heart and yet here it was blown out of all proportion. The drums were just far too loud.
I was sitting right to one side, a speaker stack blocking my view of half the band and the sound was just awful. So I went to stand at the back.
And there were moments – Sleeping Ute and Yet Again from Shields were nearly resplendent. A rotten echo of cacophonous drums killing any chance of total enjoyment. Four Cypresses from the latest release also a good show-don’t-tell feel of circular guitar motifs and nice keyboard textures.
But I was relying on the guessing-game of remembering the recorded versions. Lyrics were lost, vocals were barely there, the bass was non-existent for whole sections of songs despite the guy hammering away at the strings.
It was futile.
So I was gone.
A nice walk home after a short time trapped listening to okay indie-pop being ruined in the venue on the night, probably by the over-eager sound tech, maybe by some weird clash of venue and band – though they didn’t sound this horrendous last time I saw them in the same space.
A deep shame.
A waste of my time.
Someone else will tell you it was a wonderful gig though – so be sure to read and listen to other reviews.
You can support Off The Tracks via PressPatron