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Monday, November 9, 2015

El Vy Get Chatty at the Independent

Posted By on Mon, Nov 9, 2015 at 1:22 PM

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El Vy
The Independent
November 6, 2015

Better than: firing up Lou Reed and Metallica’s Lulu and downing a pint of Fireball.

What do we talk about when we talk about side projects? There are more and more of them every day, from Thom Yorke’s Atoms for Peace to The Killer’s Brandon Flowers and his solo efforts; mostly we choose to compare the new work to the established discography of the main act, hoping in our analysis to determine whether the new band or songs is more of the same or something else entirely. For El Vy (pronounced like the plural of Elvis), these efforts are unnecessary. From the first song of their short but succulent set on Friday night at the Independent, Matt Beringer of the National and Menomena’s Brent Knopf made it clear that this new band wasn’t interested in proving its worth, but simply sharing its music for any who were eager to hear it.

That music stemmed mainly from Knopf, who shifted seamlessly mid-song between an upright keyboard and the guitar slung over his shoulder. Lose sight of him in the shifting lights for even a moment and suddenly he’d be on to a new instrument, carrying the threads of glam and folk that collectively make up the sound of EL Vy. Beringer provided the vocals that have long served as the anchor for his main squeeze, The National, but also reminded the crowd that should he ever decide to shift careers, his quick asides and acerbic observations could translate easily into stand-up.

“Here’s the thing,” he explained during a tuning break on stage. “Our record is only 42 minutes long, so I have to do this banter.” If his banter was seeded in obligation, it certainly didn’t feel that way. When Beringer first took the stage, he recognized a woman in the front of the crowd and proceeded to playfully lambaste her making more portraits of Ben Gibbard than she had of him.

“Michelle has made one portrait of me and seven or eight of Ben Gibbard. To be fair, Ben Gibbard does have a perfect butt. We call him Buns Gibbard. Two silver globes, like an MC Escher drawing with reflections of staircases and lizards.”

Later he threw a guitar pick into the crowd, adding “Here’s a guitar pick, even though I don’t really play.” The audience member missed the catch, and Beringer responded, “I think I just saw that hit the floor. This guy’s like ‘fuck that, you’re not a real guitar player.’ Good call.”

Perhaps Beringer caught the talkative bug from opening act Hibou. Lead man Peter Michel had lots to say during his group’s set, but perhaps nothing spoke louder than his choice to take the stage barefoot. His lead guitarist Sam Peterson likewise was dressed akin in a grab whatever’s closest on my bedroom floor type aesthetic. Overall Hibou gave the impression of a group of dudes who can’t be bothered to care about the small stuff, as long as the music shines through. Their sound, a brat pack Beach House with Zeppelin flourishes, filled the Independent with synth-pop swirls and scathing guitar lines. At one point, Michel acknowledged how happy he was to be back on tour with “a real rock and roll band,” explaining that Hibou had recently finished a stint of shows opening for Big Freedia.

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When the batteries for one of Michel’s instruments gave out, he told Peterson to riff while he replaced them. The guitarist obliged, playing the opening lines of “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” then playing them again when Michels said he wasn’t quite ready. When he finally pressed the button on the gadget that had required on-stage surgery, it turned out to be a soundboard that made the ubiquitous DJ air horn effect. “Crucial,” Michel confirmed, and somehow, it was.

While El Vy didn’t attempt any Guns N’ Roses material, they did make one foray into the land of covers, busting out a rather faithful interpretation of the Fine Young Cannibal’s “She Drives Me Crazy” late in their set. The moment turned into a sing-along, somewhat of an interesting paradox for a band’s third-ever live performance, but also completely fitting given the nature of El Vy. Their album, Return to the Moon, is an eclectic mix of genres and moods, a grab back of ideas unified by Beringer's voice. It's hard to think of a cover song that wouldn't have fit into their set, but "She Drives Me Crazy" was definitely a winner.

It's difficult to summarize the show El Vy presented on Friday night. It wasn't terribly cohesive, a reflection of the album that bore the material performed on stage, but that isn't necessarily a negative. Beringer and Knopf are established talents, under no pressure to validate their worth with a new venture. El Vy is simply the home for a handful of songs written by two people who didn’t have the right place to put them. How kind of them to invite us to their housewarming, a party with a curfew but a wonderful evening nonetheless.

Critic’s Notebook

- El Vy did not return for an encore, a situation made somewhat obvious when Beringer introduced the band’s final song, “Need a Friend,” by saying “We don’t have any more songs after this one.” People still seemed bewildered that band could choose to play all their material up front instead going through the charade of leaving the stage only to return.

- Did you know the Independent has a balcony? I didn’t. How one acquires the wristband that allows access to this peaceful birds-eye view, I’m not entirely sure, but I was fortunate enough to snag one, and it was an immensely pleasing experience to be afforded a little elbow room in the cramped confines of a sold-out Independent show.

It’s a Game
Sleepin’ Light
Sad Case
Silent Ivy Hotel
Return to the Moon
Paul is Alive
I’m the Man to Be
She Drives Me Crazy [Fine Young Cannibals cover]
No Time to Crank the Sun
Need a Friend

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About The Author

Zack Ruskin

Zack Ruskin

Zack was born in San Francisco and never found a reason to leave. He has written for Consequence of Sound, The Believer, The Millions, and The Rumpus. He is still in search of a Bort license plate.

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