Live Concert Photography: Superhuman Happiness with Bearstronaut and Madalia at Rough Trade 3/19/16
Over the course of this site’s six year history, you’d likely be extremely familiar with Brooklyn-based dance pop/experimental pop/funk act Superhuman Happiness. And with the 2014 release of their long-awaited full-length debut Hands, the act led by co-founders Stuart Bogie (vocals, saxophone, synths) and Eric Biondo (vocals, trumpet, synth, percussion) fully emerged on to the national scene; however, since the release of Hands the collective went through a major lineup reshuffling as the founding duo recruited Andrea Diaz (lead vocals, keyboards, percussion), Sam Levin (drums, vocals) as replacements in a completely reformatted project, which has also resulted in an equally major change in sonic direction. Presumably such changes are from creative and financial necessity; in fact, up until recently, it was a largely unwritten and unspoken truth that the members of large collectives never make enough money to live off their work, let alone be able to successfully tour. Understandably, the members of the collective frequently find themselves being forced to focus on a variety of side projects, creative pursuits and full-time, day jobs at the detriment of the primary project which may have won everyone attention. And naturally, the primary project either languishes in a semi-permanent hiatus or eventually the project continues with several different and completely overhauled lineups.
Interestingly, Escape Velocity, Superhuman Happiness’ sophomore effort manages to retain some of the elements that first caught the attention of the blogosphere as the material manages to remain infectiously whimsical, joyous, and percussive while thematically covering several profound topics — including questioning the fidelity of one’s memories and nostalgia; however, whereas on Hands the members of Superhuman Happiness effortlessly meshed Afrobeat, funk and Western pop, Escape Velocity has the band meshing New Wave, synth pop, experimental pop, dance music with extremely subtle nods towards the Afrobeat that first inspired them.
Since the release of Escape Velocity, the members of Superhuman Happiness have been making several tour stops across the Northeast and New England — with several stops in town, including their last stop in the area at Rough Trade back in March. And their Rough Trade show included an expanded lineup the included former bandmate, EMEFE frontman and Antibalas drummer Miles Arntzen playing guitar and drums, an additional synth player and percussionist and a few other members.
Opening the night’s affairs was Boston, MA-based quartet Bearstronaut. Comprised of David Martineau, Philip Boisvert, Paul Lamontagne, and Nate Marsden the Boston-based band specializes in a dance rock sound that sonically owes a debt to In Ghost Colours-era Cut Copy and I Love You It’s Cool-era Bear in Heaven; however, unfortunately, their live sound struck me as lacking a tight enough groove to set them apart, let alone compare to the acts that seemed to so clearly influence them.
Bearstronaut was followed by Burlington, VT-based psych pop, dance rock act Madalia. Comprised of Mark Daly, Willoughby Morse, Eric B. Maier, Dan Ryan and Jer Coons, the Vermont-based quintet was thoroughly impressive as their live sound also managed to subtly nod at prog rock — thanks to rapid fire time signature and key changes and lengthy but incredibly funky and danceable songs.
Check out some photos from a pretty fun night in Williamsburg.
(Photo Caption: A guest appearance from Superhuman Happiness’ Stuart Bogie during Bearstronaut’s set at Rough Trade earlier this year.)
(Photo Caption: Superhuman Happiness performing songs from Hands and Escape Velocity at Rough Trade earlier this year.