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Spring Break concerts in review

By ALEX HUROWITZ | April 3, 2014

Spring Break doesn't have to just be about beaches and parties; I spent my break checking out some of the concerts that New York City has to offer.

These were the highlights:

1. Com Truise @ Bowery Ballroom 3/15/14

On the second night of spring break, I caught the Manhattan show of the electronic producer’s tour for his most recent release, an EP titled Wave 1. While he has been known to perform with a live drummer during his shows, Com Truise instead opted to perform solo from atop a large stage design featuring a large C, a pentagon, and a T.

Naturally, I would have been more interested in hearing his material being performed with a drummer, but it still worked for Com Truise. His studio material contains some of the best production used in terms of 80’s-sounding synth and progressions. This level of production stays consistent live, with all of the songs sounding as good - if not better, at times - than in studio. Additionally, he would mix in improvised synth lines or remix a mix he had just made on the spot. Despite his obvious inebriety (at least he’s a funny drunk), he barely made any mistakes and even the ones he committed were a result of his attempts at experimentation, which gave credence to this show not being a simple “just pressing play” type of an affair.

2. War on Drugs @ Bowery Ballroom 3/20/14.

With its latest release, Lost in the Dream, getting phenomenal reviews, I was looking forward to seeing War on Drugs, a group headed by guitarist and songwriter Adam Granduciel. The group’s second album, Slave Ambient, was one of my favorite albums from 2011. It featured an interesting combination of Americana, shoegaze, and psychedelic music.

Unfortunately, the live performance did not match up. While the material definitely does have a different vibrancy live versus in studio, the same problems that plagued this show can also be heard on the newest album: many of the songs overstay their welcome and don’t end up going much of anywhere. While Granduciel is a talented guitarist and knows how to get just the right sound for each song, hearing him solo over a constant unchanging rhythm for long periods of time got old. These solos lost any feeling they had, since the rest of the band never “reacted” to what he played. The only discernible change was an increase in the song’s volume, which worked at times for songs like “Baby Missiles,” but soon it felt more like an overdone formula.

Besides the released single, “Red Eyes,” the new songs seemed uniform and, in some cases, used the same progression (typically two chords long) played over and over, with maybe a change in pitch and timing.

 

3. Warpaint @ Webster Hall 3/21/14

This 4-piece, all-girl indie rock group from Los Angeles has been riding the hype train since its debut release, Warpaint, back in 2011. If you love Radiohead and/or Portishead, Warpaint’s material is definitely for you. While the group’s newest self-titled release was an improvement from its debut release in terms of songwriting and sound, Warpaint still has much to improve - and this can definitely be heard live.

One thing is for certain: Warpaint doesn’t need to fix its rhythm section. The groove for every song, especially “Biggy” and “Love Is To Die,” was executed perfectly by bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg and drummer Stella Mozgawa. There was a real liveliness that is only hinted at on the album but achieved so well in performance.

Unfortunately, the group’s melody section needs the most improvement, especially in terms of straying off what is written. Although guitarist and singer Theresa Wayman had some issue with her guitar, whatever melodies she improvised did not fit well with the structure and tight melody lines written originally for the song. Also, they sort of clashed with the smooth grooves provided by the rhythm section. The other guitarist and vocalist, Emily Kokal, never strayed from the original melodies; while this is not entirely bad, it’s also not entirely good.

While the performance of songs in general was very well executed (the semi-acapella rendition of “Billie Holiday” was phenomenal), this couldn’t be said of when their songs become jams. This was especially true during their encore performance of an old hit, “Elephants.” Already a good song in itself, it’s rhythm changes turned it into one of the best jams that I’ve heard live in recent memory. But this was definitely dampened by the sort of repetitive and unimaginative soloing that went along with it. All in all, Warpaint is at its best when it adheres to what was originally written.


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