While Wildfire Lounge may be relatively new to Ithaca, only firmly establishing itself as a music venue this year, what it lacks in age it makes up for in comfort. While the venue itself is packed with cushioned couches and large pillows, it also has a sense of comfort between band and audience. This was definitely the case Saturday night, when Hotel Reverie and Beach Fossils took to the stage, in the second ever show booked by Ithaca group skipster. New Yorkers Beach Fossils created a community of their own at the show, constantly inviting the audience closer during their set and staying afterwards to chat.
The first band to take the stage was Upstate New York natives Hotel Reverie, a brother sister duo who utilized a guitar and drum set to create a powerful instrumentation. The highlight however, was frontwoman’s Jen Graney vocals, deep and droning through a reverberation that immediately recalled the power of Patti Smith. Graney balanced between a singer and a talker to create a storyteller vibe that enraptured the audience on her every word. Supporting this was a sparse instrumentation that focused on guitar notes rather than chords and drums that favored the toms and cymbals. The band played a full, if a little long, set that allowed them to change their sound with each song, from loose ballads to fast paced jams, with the one constant being Graney’s sultry voice.
Headlines Beach Fossils, hailing from Brooklyn, N.Y., are currently a guitar trio who make up for their lack of percussion with catchy, yet complicated, songs that jangle, pop and engage. The group, who met through mutual friends in Brooklyn, is made up of guitarists Dustin Payseur and Sennott Burke, and bass player John Pena. In New York, Beach Fossils have immersed themselves in a thriving Brooklyn music scene. However, said frontman Payseur, “It’s hard to call it a scene when there are so many bands with different sounds.” Pena echoed this, saying, “It’s just a lot of friends we have. It’s more of a ‘friends scene.’” This has bled over to their live show, as Payseur calls their New York City shows their “craziest” and “most exciting,” citing Brooklyn venue Market Hotel as their favorite place to play. As Pena says, “There is a bit of a safety net in playing in front of a home crowd.
Ithaca may have taken them outside of their safety zone in more way than one. While they usually play with a drummer, the group officially broke up with him on the way up to Ithaca, as he has joined a band that is currently in Europe, and instead used a preprogrammed drum machine to supplement their guitars. According to Payseur, the band programmed the drum machine during the car ride upstate. This proved to be both a burden, as the band had to pause between each song to program the machine, and a gift, as they were afforded the option to just start over when they didn’t match up with the preprogrammed beats.
Their eponymous debut LP, which drops May 25th, was done mostly by Payseur. “As soon as I had a riff, everything was in my head,” he said. Now working with a group, Payseur maintains that the songwriting process is “as natural as when I sat down by myself.” Lyrics, Payseur said, are always last and always the hardest. “Each song has its own feel,” he said. “Its important to match the feel of a song and the emotion of words.”
The feel of a song rings as true as their riffs during their live set. The band creates a wall, using distinct guitar parts that at once stand on their own and flesh into a greater sound. Both vocals and instrumentation are thrown through a heavy reverb that allows the various parts of a track to blend together, forming a unique brand of fuzz pop. “We’ve been influenced by everything from post-punk to free jazz,” Payseur said. “We’re not about constricting ourselves to any sort of sound.”
One of the strongest components of Beach Fossils’ set was their abilty to energize the audience. Their mot successful numbers were the faster ones, with high, ringing riffs that tore through the air and cut through the audience that got everyone twisting and shaking to the tunes. The band joined in, constantly moving around the makeshift stage, often bashing into each other like naive moshers. When their announcement of one songs left was met with cries from the audience, Payseur offered this as explanation: “We’d play more, but that’s all we have programmed into the drums.”