The sold-out show at Bowery Ballroom last night saw Wye Oak’s first headlining set at the downtown venue.
The major-indie Merge artists by now should be able to sell more than their fair share of tickets these days, but Jenn Wasner on guitar on vocals couldn’t help but express disbelief over the band’s headlining bill. Wasner – with Andy Stack on drums, keyboards, and vocals – are wrapping up a tour in support of their new Civilian.
The pure virtuosity of Stack is astonishing. He plays solid beats, a la Def Leppard, though both arms still abide; his left hand plays keys and the bass lines.
But live, unless you’re a devout fan of this band, it comes off a little a one-note. There’s only so much thrashing and wailing we can take – Wasner is obviously a great guitarist, but the melding of loud noise-pop here with more melodic sections found us a little off-put.
That might be the point.
Caveman threw down a killer set, solid to the core. Though on record they come off as sort of dreamy folk rockers, live the band’s set is pretty heavy, intriguing rock.
The beats are solid with Stefan Marolachakis behind the kit locking in with Jeff Berrall on bass. This honestly might be the best rhythm section in New York right now.
Berrall is liquid, elastic, groovy, but perfectly understated. Marolachakis plays a four-on-the-floor more often than a swing, but leaving out that ride cymbal isn’t a detriment to the high end: Jimmy “Cobra” Carbonetti provides much of the treble with his slinky semi-hollow guitar. Lead singer Matthew Iwanusa sounds spot-on and Sam Hopkins on keys plays a tense counterpoint to the four-part harmonies of the band.
But to us, the standout of the night was Brooklyn’s own Callers. Having returned from tour in support of Wye Oak the last few weeks, the band’s stage presence is quite refined by now.
Singer Sara Lucas’ voice can stand on its own and she proved it, belting an astonishing a capella of Prince’s "When You Were Mine" as drummer Don Godwin went to find a strap for his floor tom.
For a three-piece with no bass guitar, Callers have an incredibly balanced sound. Guitarist Ryan Seaton does some dazzling finger plucking, playing his own counterpoint top-to-bottom across the register, as Godwin exercises incredible amounts of self-control behind the kit – New York should be grateful to rep this band.