Quilt, Total Slacker, Lilac, & Dive
Live @ Glasslands, Williamsburg
In the fall quiet, with fewer big-ticket concerts happening all the time, Brooklynites have the privelage of falling back on our borough’s potent reserve of lesser-known touring and local acts. More than a couple of them played Glasslands just last night! I went there! This is who I saw…
Dive have been much noted lately for the sheer volume of bills they’ve been popping up on, all over the neighborhood. It’s like CMJ all the time for these kids. The other thing you read a lot about them is that their sound is a much darker departure from Beach Fossils guitarist Cole Smith’s other band, dabbling in tight motorik grooves. Catching most of their set called that last one into question. There’s really nothing menacing about these guys live, with their relatively bright guitar tones and pharmaceutical-grade hair floppiness. Sure, the basslines were insistent and the vocals, when they came, had kind of a 70s spacey-ness. But in effect, so non-threateningly disheveled as they were, I found it just a slightly different shade of pale. You can stand to get tougher still, fellas!
Knowing nothing in advance about San Francisco four-piece Lilac except their city of origin was a good state in which to enjoy their set. For starters, they looked weird/great. Will Ivey, who’s been peripherally involved in scores of bands over the years including some—like Girls and Hunx and his Punx—who you are totally familiar with, looked like a polite pirate. At his side, Kirsten Knick was super goth in black mesh and silver. Their bassist, who was later revealed to be a quick-study loaner who’d learned their songs in two days, looked like a pool shark. The drummer had kind of a white b-boy thing going on. They were about as British-looking as it gets (without top hats or tiaras). Their music also had the record bin whiff of UK vinyl from the 80s, but they had more than decent range. Early forays into psych-drone made me nervous (psych-drone bands almost always forget to actually write songs), but soon they were on to sharp indie-pop of the sort you’d find on a Rough Trade Shops compilation, and then morphed again to bluesy guy/gal noise-pop suggesting a less-debauched Royal Trux. They handled all attempted styles well, though I left a little unsure of their ultimate identity. No one mode shone out above the others. Ivey has a rich, sad voice in the general vicinity of Dean Wareham, and it’s a compelling through-line for the hodge-podge. They’ve only released an EP thus far. Clearing out a tiny piece of mental real estate in anticipation of future works is not a bad idea.
Watching Total Slacker, I imagined a strange state of affairs in which the only information about Sonic Youth one had access to was Thurston Moore’s goofiest stage banter. In super selective sensory deprivation with only that to go on, you’d think they would sound just like Total Slacker! (Loose and 90s crunchy, obviously clever, but not super serious.) With sloppy vocal tradeoffs and heavy fuzz, they more resembled a less-dickish Times New Viking. They also played a couple slow jams that sounded like “Crimson & Clover” spinning at the wrong speed, which, sure, thanks. At one point Tucker Rountree ended a song by yelling “Fabric Softener!” for reasons unclear. They were silly and charming, and cheered on by folks with elaborate mohawks (also unclear as to why this is a Total Slacker demographic).
Quilt, a Boston band who were celebrating their debut album on Mexican Summer, had kind of a thankless task as the last band on a very long weekday evening. The crowd was worn out and thinning, and the initial sound mix wasn’t doing them any favors at all. Even after singer/guitarist Shane Butler asked the audience for a sound levels audit, shit wasn’t quite right. Which is too bad. They were one of my favorite discoveries at CMJ. They still sounded like Yo La Tengo slowing down covers of west coast 60s psych, and bringing a love of New Zealand pop and Meat Puppets-y southwestern twang to them. That’s a pretty sweet zone. It was likable, even if compromised, and they’ll see better days. So, perhaps the tragedy is muted.