56K, Olivia Mancini and Morningbell
June 7, 2013
The weather Friday was frankly awful – a torrential and mostly windswept rain had soaked the city, turning street corners into gigantic pools in the morning and by the evening, some street corners looked like small lakes. What made the day even more miserable for me is that I had a nice, golf-sized umbrella – an umbrella that I had once found in a bar– explode in a gust of wind while on the corner of East 4th and Broadway. Yep, the fucking thing exploded. So I was understandably wet and miserable, and when I arrived at Union Hall early to get out of the rain, I was surprised to see a fairly decent crowd milling about Union Hall’s small performance space – some of whom were there to show support to the night’s opening 56K.
From what the members of 56K mentioned early in their set, it was one of their first live sets together and although the set had a lovable and infectious exuberance, they were extremely raw as performers and as musicians – to be honest, the musicianship was at best competent, making their sound seem like the countless not so great punk acts i’ve caught at the old Continental and the Acme Underground. Still getting on that stage and playing the songs you just wrote requires a lot of bravery, and I wish them luck and success.
Olivia Mancini and her backing band played more straightforward indie rock which was seemingly influenced by the sad-sack wit of Elvis Costello and country music, in a similar fashion to Louis Jones’ Spectrals project. I probably heard one of my favorite lines in a song during a live performance and it was something along the lines of “I’ll be your Friday night/but, I’ll never be your Sunday morning . .” and it was sung with a bittersweet, ironic sense of humor. Pretty interesting stuff, I have to say.
Most of the Union Hall crowd was there for Morningbell, who have been touring throughout June to support their latest album, Boa Noite. Sonically, the material draws from a wide array of influences, including African field recordings, classical romantic music, Hungarian folk music, hip hop, funk and others. Instead of the icy minimalism that’s once again become popular in modern music, the material goes in the complete opposite direction — a swooning, joyous, densely layered maximalism that captures both a childlike sense of awe and wonder, but beneath the surface darker, more ominous undertones, creating a psychedelic trip of an experience. Live they have to maneuver around some obvious limitations – they’re only a quartet live but tracks are fed through samplers. A lot of the material from the new album is played with a muscular insistence that wasn’t always there on the recorded effort, and on songs like “We Have Eyes, As Well As Ears” and “Needn’t Have Bothered” it creates an earth shaking heft in the bass that you can get from listening on a great pair of headphones or a decent stereo system. With so much of the crowd there for Morningbell, it was much like a hometown crowd and they played with an extraordinary energy that seemed to lift up the room at points and and had the entire room dancing. God, that was a lot of fun, and a great way to continue what later turned out to be 11 straight days of live music.
For these photos and more from this night of music, check out the Flickr set here: