March 13, 2007

Essex Green’s Ithaca Gig

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Saturday night, Cornell’s indie/punk Fanclub Collective delivered once again with yet another show that was indisputably well worth the wait (and it was quite a wait — the show, originally scheduled for nine o’clock at night, didn’t get underway until past ten o’clock). Despite the delay, the faithful Fanclub-goers were ready to rock and when the first act, the eagerly anticipated, 6-piece, indie/rock group RaRaRiot, finally stepped on stage, the energy in Appel was palpable (even more so than on taco night — who could believe it?).

The six Syracuse natives (including guitarist Milo Bonacci, cellist Alexandra Lawn, keyboard/vocalist Wesley Miles, drummer John Pike, bassist Mathieu Santos and violinist Rebecca Zeller) had the crowd on their side from the start. The music was loud and pumping and the band members were incredibly fun to watch. The drummer especially looked in serious danger of cracking a few drumheads and/or popping a few forehead veins (somewhat ironically, the drummer from the second band actually did crack a drumhead). The second and seventh songs seemed to be particular favorites (and deservedly so) with the crowd, but the band’s quality was clear throughout, though the sound guy left a lot to be desired. The backup vocals and cello mics required the kind of highly-sensitized hearing that most humans sadly do not possess.

The songs were a mixture of intricate and prominent bass lines, and drumbeats (major props to whoever taught those two to play), complex guitar melodies, screeching, but very cool violin harmonies and rapid-fire lyrics from a singer who had an altogether too close relationship with his mic stand. The overall sound was incredibly energized and nicely unique, not to mention wildly engaging (although that may also have had something to do with the bass player’s seeming affinity for grabbing his band mates’ asses) and wildly fun to dance to, though dance may be too tame a word. Perhaps, ‘getting their jump on’ more aptly describes the audience’s antics.

Saturday’s show was Ra Ra Riot’s first stop on an upcoming two month long tour that will take them as far as London, England and if you’re feeling up to the drive, the band will be in Syracuse on March 21st. And keep your eyes peeled for their new EP, which ‘hits stands’ sometime next week —definitely worth having on your shelf (if you’re the type that keeps CDs on shelves).

Despite a slow start, the second act lived up to the Fanclub’s impeccable reputation. Although the self-described ‘neo-pyschedelic pop outfit’ the Essex Green seemed more professional than RaRaRiot and played a tighter set (even in spite of the broken drumhead incident.) They also came off as ‘overly artsy’ and unusually aloof, much less engaging. The crowd seemed reluctant to warm up to the group and it wasn’t until the seventh or eighth song that the energy really got rolling. Drummer John Pike began flipping his sticks — pretty much single-handedly stealing the show — and the guitarist started doing splits, though his pants were just a tad too tight to pull it off entirely. Most importantly, the energy of the music itself began to pick up, with quicker, moer lively songs much more conducive to the atmosphere in the audience. At the start of the set, only a single inebriated student was moving in any way close to dancing (though he was also close to maiming many innocent bystanders.) By the end, there was not one person still sitting down.

The band, spearheaded by guitarist/vocalist Chris Ziter, guitarist Jeff Baron, and keyboardist/vocalist Sasha Bell, has an extremely cool, extremely distinctive sound, very Metric meets folk rock. The songs were a unique mix of male/female vocal harmonies, heavy drumbeats, pretty flute and piano solos, and intricate guitar riffs. The technical skill of the band members was quite impressive, and the numerous aspects of their songs were extremely put together. Once more, the sound guy was far from top-notch, but the musical abilities of the drummer and the lead guitarist, who somehow managed to look both constipated and stoned at the same time, made up for it. And of course, there was no denying the band’s considerable talent — the set was impressively well played (and the music itself was good too). For those of you familiar with the Grass Roots music festival in Trumansburg, Essex Green would probably fit in perfectly. Grass Roots admins — take note!

Essex Green just recently finished up an extensive tour of the United States with UK indie hit Camera Obscura, and is planning a west-coast tour for this upcoming April. Their most recent (and reportedly best and most cohesive) album, Cannibal Sea, is now available for purchase at the low, low price of thirteen dollars! Hop to it, kids.