The New Music Seminar Festival Day 2 – Hess is More, AVAN LAVA, the Pearl and the Beard and the Drums
June 10, 2013
I was back at Webster Hall for the second time in about 24 hours to catch the second night of the New Music Seminar Festival, and the acts at Webster Hall, were as eclectic as the acts which played there on the opening night. Oddly enough, there were some obvious similarities and differences between the two nights at Webster Hall – if anything, AVAN LAVA, the Pearl and the Beard and the Drums are all acts that have developed a fanbase through playing countless shows throughout the area and the country, and they’ve gotten a fair amount of love throughout the blogosphere for their work. So having them play as on a bill of emerging bands that may well blow up, made a certain amount of sense. But on another level, it was a bill where someone always seemed to be a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. I’ll give you a couple of examples just from this bill: AVAN LAVA, an electronica act known for their flamboyant and energetic dance party-like shows, just didn’t seem to fit in very well with a act like Hess is More. Despite the fact that Hess is More’s sound was dependent on synths, their sound was much more downtempo and trance-like. How did the Pearl and the Beard, the adorable indie rock trio with the winsome material and amiable air fit with their preceding openers? How did the either of the previous three sets work with the obviously Brit-pop inspired work of the Drums? Besides being emerging bands or being indie level acts, would the audience make a connection between the bands that they wouldn’t have noticed? I sincerely doubt it; in fact, to me it seemed that most of the crowd was there for the Pearl and the Beard and the Drums than anyone else. Although they were won over by AVAN LAVA. Still, it was a strange show to me and I’ll tell you about it with some brief thoughts from each set.
I only caught the last 10 or 15 minutes of Hess is More’s set. I didn’t really see enough to form a very informed opinion but their sound was downtempo and made you feel like you were falling into a deep trance.
Electronica act AVAN LAVA got on the stage next and their sound owes a great debt to 80s and 90s R&B influenced house and techno with an overly seductive feel. We’re talking about lushly and slickly produced material that sounds well put together and fronted by a vocalist who can really sing. But on a certain level, it’s not the most original thing I’ve ever heard – whenever i’ve hear them, I think of the countless one-hit wonders who used to be played over the air when Hot 97 used to play freestyle and electronic dance music. Still you can’t help but dance when you hear their signature track, “It’s Never Over” and their great cover of “Somebody to Love Me."
The trio of the Pearl and the Beard were more along the lines of the cult-status indie rock band that the blogosphere and certain publications would love – smartly and sincerely written songs that owed quite a bit of debt to folk music and classical music. In some way I was reminded of a now-defunct band, La Strada but with a more charming, amiable air. Granted, their sound isn’t supposed to rock out hard, which made those who tried to rock out look kind of strange to me – they were a few, obviously – but for the most part, the crowd paid rapt attention to them.
The Drums were the headliner of the night and i honestly thought they were unoriginal and overrated – to the point that I really didn’t see what the big deal about them actually was. Their signature sound that drove the Webster Hall Crowd nuts, an song about the lead singer’s best friend who died, with the incredibly stupid and obvious lyric along the lines of "My best friend/He died/He died” bore an uncanny resemblance to the Smiths’ “This Charming Man.” In fact, it sounded so much like the Smiths, that I wondered how Morrissey and Marr, the primary songwriters didn’t sue them. I didn’t get it, and i wanted to hear someone practically cover the Smiths, i can listen to the Smiths any time i felt like; so I left in the middle of their set. (I have to admit that for those who may have been unfamiliar with Brit Pop, the Drums may have struck them as a revelation and in the same way as much of those acts did for me and others. But i would hope that the mostly young crowd would go directly to the better, more original source material that influenced it.)
I bolted out of Webster Hall, in the desperate attempt to catch Chateau Marmont at Piano’s as part of a French artist showcase. And after catching them live, I was quite impressed – their material was primarily propelled forward with the use of synthesizer, and live instrumentation such as drums, bass and guitar. And although their sound was forward looking and futuristic, it also managed to be anachronistic in the same fashion that Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder’s sound was – a peak of what people thought the future would look and sound like from 30 or 40 years ago. And in fact, much like Moroder’s work, there’s a warm, very human element to their sound; it sweats and flexes its muscles.
For these photos and the rest of the photos from this night of live music, check out the Flickr set here: