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Friday, March 4, 2011

Wild Nothing and Abe Vigoda Reveal Common Ancestors at Rickshaw Stop

Posted By on Fri, Mar 4, 2011 at 8:33 AM

Abe Vigoda at Rickshaw Stop last night
  • Abe Vigoda at Rickshaw Stop last night
Wild Nothing

Abe Vigoda

March 3, 2011

@ Rickshaw Stop

Better Than: Wasting half a day and a bunch of dollars shopping for vintage 4AD vinyl.

Separated by three thousand miles of flyover country and once parted by a decade's worth of musical influences, Thursday's Popscene acts Wild Nothing and Abe Vigoda turned out to share more in common than you'd think.

Abe Vigoda, who cut their teeth in the same Los Angeles club, the Smell, as fractured lo-fi colleagues No Age and the Mae Shi, fashioned a complex sort of tropical post-punk on their 2008 breakthrough, Skeleton. The album mustered a series of intertwined dances between clanging guitars, skittering drums, and multi-voice chants: a raucous ballet that Interwebz tastemakers pulled into the "shitgaze" movement of Psychedelic Horseshit and No Age, but which secretly sounds more like Vampire Weekend playing punk covers. The shitgaze thing's a red herring anyway: bands like No Age sound more like shoegaze and Psychedelic Horseshit sounds more like, well, shit. Point is: just like that, Abe Vigoda found themselves playing little brother in a scene as nebulous as its flagship acts' production values.

Perhaps in reaction to the misnomer, Abe Vigoda underwent a startling overhaul for last September's Crush, and nowhere was it more apparent than in their opening set at the Rickshaw last night. Goth-pop keyboards foreground cuts like "Dream of My Love (Chasing After You)" and "Throwing Shade," stepping on the frenetic strumming that slurried the band's earlier work. The band only turned to earlier cuts midway through the show, which immediately turned their dark introversion back out to the audience as calculated post-punk aggression. But when the band left the stage and Echo & the Bunnymen's "Lips Like Sugar" kicked off the roadie music, the resulting juxtaposition confirmed it: Abe Vigoda's chosen a new set of conceptual older brothers.

For his part, Jack Tatum's Wild Nothing arrived on the indie scene fully-formed as a reverbed-out dream-pop machine. The quartet actually started as Tatum's solo dalliance, but upon the immediate underground success of the project's debut LP Gemini last year, he hired a touring lineup to support the record. Onstage, the band simplifies and clarifies Tatum's compositions, Michael Skattum's drums in particular ringing with greater clarity. However, pretty much every musical touchstone on Gemini--chorus-drenched guitars, Robert Smith vocals--still defines Wild Nothing's live presentation.

Thing is, Wild Nothing represents for Tatum a specific meditation on nostalgia, one that bears little resemblance to the work he was doing just three years ago. While stationed in Blacksburg, Virginia for college, Tatum played mastermind to two rather whimsical projects: Facepaint and Jack & the Whale. While the latter proffered spacey pop anthems of a specifically low-key variety, both groups actually bear some of the tropical lilt that marked Abe Vigoda's earlier efforts. Certainly Abe Vigoda tended toward the more aggressive, while Tatum seems never to have raised his pulse above 50, but with Facepaint he certainly experimented with the same restless rhythms as his L.A. counterparts.

Tomorrow's set at L.A.'s Natural History Museum (you heard me right) marks the last show on Wild Nothing and Abe Vigoda's joint tour. The guys in Abe Vigoda end the campaign on home turf, free to head off to sleep in their own beds after the show. For Jack Tatum and Wild Nothing, thus shall begin the long journey back to the East Coast. Tatum lives in Georgia now; he told Consequence of Sound last month that his time in Virginia has resulted in a certain affinity for the South. The prospect of New York also has to linger in the back his mind. But if Wild Nothing (or Tatum's next enrichment activity) ever makes its way back to the West Coast, he's got unexpected fast friends in Abe Vigoda, once the Smell's little brother and now its cold-wave retro upstart.

Critic's Notebook

Courting California controversy: Abe Vigoda had a lot of nice things to say about San Francisco, yet they still managed to make a few regional gaffes. Midway through the set, members Juan Velazquez and Michael Vidal gleefully announced how happy they would be to get back to L.A. The audience reacted in kind with "Nor-Cal" shout-outs and the odd boo, prompting a swift retraction by the band. They later apologized because one of their new songs was inspired by San Francisco, but was also very sad. Is it me, or does the negative indie kid response mean that S.F.'s rivalry with L.A. has gone too far?

Gamer's delight: The Game Developers Conference has been going on in town for the last week, and it was obvious that the out-of-towners invaded the Rickshaw with badges hastily stuffed in back pockets. Lots of gamer and developer talk was overheard in the line outside. Here's hoping everyone made it back Friday morning for GDC's final day.

Elitism lives, Overheard in the audience edition: "Dude, this crowd sucks. They don't even know the words to this song." This guy was obviously unhappy with San Francisco's inability to memorize the almost indecipherable lyrics to Wild Nothing's minor underground sort-of hit "Summer Holiday."

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