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Monday, August 22, 2011

Friday: Sea of Bees Charms the Heteros at Café Du Nord

Posted By on Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 8:13 AM

Sea of Bees at Cafe Du Nord on Friday.
  • Sea of Bees at Cafe Du Nord on Friday.

Sea of Bees

Chloe Makes Music

Rachel Fannan

August 19, 2011

Cafe Du Nord

Better than: Making out with your girlfriends at a K.D. Lang concert.

"There's a lot of hot bitchin' girls tonight," Julie Baenziger cooed in a faux British accent. She was right, there were a lot of hot girls at Café du Nord on Friday night. There were also some bitchin' hot boys at the underground speakeasy whom this reviewer was able to take note of -- but Julie Baenziger, in a darling retro suit complete with loafers and suspenders, was paying no attention.

The night's lineup, consisting of three non-blonde, female singer-songwriter types, seemed to promise throngs of budding lesbians and drunk chicks experimenting with their girlfriends. Instead, Julie Baenziger's rockin' pipes attracted an unabashedly hetero indie crowd: girls in tasteful makeup and floral dresses with boyfriends who looked like the sensitive hotties from Grizzly Bear.

Contrary to her Brit stylings in between songs, Julie Baenziger is a Sacramento native who performs under the moniker Sea of Bees. She's not British (the lilt was cribbed across the pond), but that doesn't make her any less cool. NPR's Robin Hilton listed Benzinger's Songs for the Ravens as one of the top ten albums of 2010.

On her first full-length album, Julie Baenziger used a computer to conjure up a complete band, but at Friday's show, her only backup was a guitarist. Her music was stripped bare, yet still able to hold its own. The emotional threads were more visible, the words more resonant. She didn't hide behind electronics, which is always a nice surprise for a live performance.

sea_of_bees_2.jpg

The show started off with the gorgeous "Skinnybone" from her Bee Eee Pee (alliteration points to Baenzinger). It's a song that, like most of her music, successfully blends simple chords and crescendos into something that rises high above average chick-with-a-guitar tunes.

Baenzinger's songs have the honesty that those nutty celebrity relationships lack, and her voice has the ability to carry her heartbreaking lyrics to a happier place. It was as if Baenzinger was entertaining an intimate group of friends who knew what she had been going through without her having to explain it. But there's no need to get all mushy here. This performance certainly wasn't a no-boys-allowed, hormone-infused cocktail. This was the real shit, folks.

"Playing these songs is like going to the past," she said, and it was clear that she had moved on from whatever had fueled her first album. Hard at work on a second album, Baenzinger finished the night with a new song, after the audience pleaded for an encore. It became clear that unlike a lot of artists, Baenzinger doesn't need a bad relationship to create something genuine.

Rachel Fannan
  • Rachel Fannan

Openers: Both acts were highly entertaining in their own rights. Rachel Fannan (formerly of Sleepy Sun) and her band, Only You (unofficially referred to as three hot chicks and a bearded dude), was a surprising knockout. The group filled out with beach-y guitar solos and heavy bass lines in a performance that would have made Alison Mosshart swoon. The only downside was Fannan's volume. Had I not been up close, her charmingly melancholic voice would have been almost impossible to hear.

Chloe Roth
  • Chloe Roth

With a voice sweeter than lacy white driving gloves, indie diva Chloe Roth of Chloe Makes Music made sure everyone knew she was the one behind the wheel. In between lullabies, Roth filled time with off-color Jewish jokes ("Contrary to my Asian face, I am fully a Jew"), comments to the audience that they refrain from drowning her out ("If you don't think I can hear you talking while I'm playing ... you're incorrect"), and promotion of her freelance journalism ("I ran this joke by Joan Rivers ..."). Yet her lyrics, while expertly strung together with smart literary references, lacked the emotional resonance of the other performers.

Hipster trends for which you are not cool enough: During Fannan's set, a few girls were engaged in the oddest dancing I've ever seen outside a rave, which can only be described as "the Tin Man is rollin' (and not in cash)."

Quote of the Night: "Y'all ever got depressed and put something in your mouth to fix that situation?" asked Rachel Fannan. She was talking about booze, right?

Personal Bias: When Baenzinger started talking about drinking whiskey with Jenny Lewis, I so badly wanted to be her best friend.

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Sarah Welsh

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