Bear in Heaven
July 26, 2010
Better Than: Watching Koyaanisqatsi on a beach and sipping mai tais.
Last night's party at Rickshaw Stop started out as a beach bash, moved into an eclectic cocktail party and ended up feeling like a dance club. Each of the three New York bands on the bill brought different vibes and separate draws, but the different bands' fans came together, toe-tapping and head-bobbing their way to discovering new music.
"Who'd you come here to see?" I asked a random sample of the sold out crowd in between sets. The question was answered in equal parts: "Beach Fossils
," "Twin Sister
," and "That guy with the mustache" (which really could've been anybody, but I think he was referring to Bear in Heaven
's Joe Philpot).
The opening band, Beach Fossils, took the stage with a halfhearted disclaimer. "We just smashed all our instruments in Seattle," frontman Dustin Payseur said, brandishing a shiny new Pepto-Bismol-pink guitar. "I just bought this guitar like, fifteen minutes ago and don't know if it's going to work or not."
, who joined the tour after guitarist Sennott Burke left the band a couple of weeks ago. The Brooklyn four-piece made the tiny stage seem even smaller, bouncing all over like the cast of Beach Party
to their dreamy blend of catchy, jangly guitar melodies and simple drumbeats. Halfway through the band's 45-minute set, one particularly enthusiastic fan cupped his hands and called out, "Hey, why are you guys opening?" Beach Fossils responded with more energy and then went out with a bang, literally. As the final drumbeat of "Twelve Roses" echoed into nothingness, John Pena swung his guitar over his head sledgehammer-style and whacked it onto a nearby snare.
Payseur's new guitar turned out not to be a problem. Neither did their "borrowed" guitar player, TJ Duke from Cleveland's
Next up was Long Island's Twin Sister, a five-piece indie-pop outfit that somehow manages to put a danceable spin on everything it does. Bleeps and whirls ebb and flow with cryptic guitar riffs while Andrea Estella's voice alternates between high, low, and an ethereal whisper. "What about love?" she asks between songs, bedroom eyes batting under a heavy lip of Debbie Harry bangs ("Fuck it, don't believe in it" comes the answer from behind me, but that's another story). Admittedly, it was hard to know when to take Twin Sister seriously (during the song "Saturday Sunday," bassist Gabe D'Amico chimed in with a throaty and somewhat silly version of the chorus, which garnered a chuckle from members of the audience; the band also has a new song titled "Meet the Frownies"). But Twin Sister blew me away with their parting tune, "The Other Side of Your Face." Drummer Bryan Ujueta banged out a building beat a la Stereolab until I thought he might levitate.
Finally, Brooklyn's Bear in Heaven took the stage and we were primed, packed in like pins. They opened with the thump, thump, thump of "Beast in Peace," which steadily built into a sonic soul-cleanse of sorts. There they were, three guys making fives times the amount of noise as the prior two bands put together, a wall of sound, thunderous and reverberating, melodic and gorgeous all the same.
"What? You think I'm lying?" Philpot laughed. "Here's me walking off the stage. Who's the liar now?"
Highlights included: "Dust Cloud," Jon Philpot's syncopated lyrics coupled with ambient soundscapes and white noise, maybe squashed through a trash compacter, but in a good way (if that's possible); "Lovesick Teenagers," with its rolling bleep and vocal hook ("Come, come with us" Philpot beckons, and we did); and finally, a tasty cover of Lindstrom & Christabelle's "Lovesick." And when Philpot said it was the last song, someone denied it.
Personal Bias: Crazy stalker fan alert: After listening to the single "Daydream" nonstop for a week earlier this year, I actually looked into how much it might cost to fly to New York to see Beach Fossils. A moment of insanity, I know, but I believe in full disclosure.
Random Detail: In honor of Bear in Heaven, Rickshaw Stop was serving a special cocktail they called "Bearway to Heaven" (har, har), a mix of whiskey, cranberry, grenadine and ginger.
By the way:
It wasn't the first (nor probably the last) time members of Beach Fossils got all rock n' roll with their instruments. During Miska's Fourth of July Bash at Water Taxi Beach in Long Island, bassist John Pena threw his guitar into the East River after -- you guessed it -- "Twelve Roses." Also, Twin Sister's music is available for free on their web site