The Morning Benders, Miniature Tigers, The Mumlers
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Better than: Overindulgent rock shows.
The Morning Benders are in a new musical phase. And if you couldn't tell from the words printed on guitarist Jonathan Chu's t-shirt last night, this is the era of Big Echo. It's the name of the group's excellent new album, and it also seems to indicate a different philosophy for the band. The Benders have edited all the old songs off the set list (they did this at SXSW and they did it again last night), they experiment with album arrangements live, and they restrain what's being offered so fans crave more.
This new way of doing things was clear on my first listen to Big Echo. The album, which opens with the crackle of vinyl, is a collection of songs that bloom into gorgeous sonic color and then fade very quickly, so just when you're really getting into, say, "Cold War," it has already slipped into silence. Live, the band is working on a similar idea. At the sold-out Independent show, the group stripped back the music on Big Echo, leaving the extras to the very end (for example, there were barely any keyboard parts performed on the songs). There was also no encore. When they were done with the hour-long set, they simply left the stage.
And lest you should think this was some big pretentious move, frontman Chris Chu was nothing less than excited and affable on the mic, saying multiple times how happy he was to be back in San Francisco (he moved from Berkeley to New York) and inviting people to come over and say hello at the merch booth after the show. The Morning Benders still want to be accessible to the public. They're just putting limits on what they give. And for the most part, that attitude seems to be working with their fans.