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October 16, 2016

Believe Me When I Say: Real Estate at The Haunt

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In the two years since I first saw Real Estate play The Haunt, I have done a lot in the way of growing up. In 2014, I was a naïve sophomore with a head full of possibilities and uncertainties. Now I am a senior with one eye toward graduation and the “real-world” beyond; probably still naïve, but much more settled in my views and plans. Real Estate, in contrast to my development, has remained fairly static. The band hasn’t released so much as a Single since 2014’s Atlas: the record which they were supporting on that previous spin through town. This didn’t prevent me or a horde of other fans, however, from making the trek out to The Haunt on Wednesday night to again see the New Jersey-based Indie greats illuminate the stage. It is not just any band that could have drawn me out on a school night, away from a mounting pile of work, either: Real Estate is a special band, one of those acts that seems to have an endless ability to bring me joy. I like them as much at 21 as I did at 19, and I dare predict that my appreciation will not have waned by 23, 25 or beyond.

I say all this not merely as a means of forging a personal entry point into my concert review, but also because Real Estate’s music invites this sort of introspective mood. Since I first fell in love with their album Days during a particularly stressful semester, Real Estate’s breezy tunes have always served as a reminder to me that there is more to life than continual work: that an enjoyable life is as much about aimless walks, and watching the wind blow through trees as it is about ambitions and undertakings. There’s no way of writing this idea without sounding stupid, and I’m not suggesting that Real Estate’s lyrics all boil down to an extolling of this sort of repose (many of them reflect on the tribulations of young adulthood and in fact, take a somewhat critical stance toward the idea of such “wasted miles,” and “aimless drives”), but the fact remains that their music continually puts me back in touch with a certain contentment that has always felt very viscerally real, even if to put it into words is it is to render it a hippie cliché.

Wednesday’s show got started with EZTV: a pleasant enough, if not strikingly original, Brooklyn-based indie band. The set took a turn for the livelier, however, during its second half, as the band introduced material from their new album “High in Place,” and covered Big Star’s “When My Baby’s Beside Me.”

And then, after the brief, customary, blackout it was time for Real Estate. The band opened with an entrancing rendition of “Green Aisles:” one of their best and most somber cuts, and with that the pensive mood was set. They proceeded to drift between classics (old favorites such as “Had to Hear,” “It’s Real,” “Talking Backward” and “Municipality” which electrified the audience), and new material from their forthcoming album (set for an early 2017 release). Real Estate is not the sort of band you expect, or necessarily want, to have made significant changes to their sound between records, but I will say that their new material featured a discernible aesthetic which distinguished it from all prior work, while at the same time setting itself very much in line with it, withholding the lush mellowness which gives the band so much of its appeal. It is hard to say which of my impressions correspond to a genuine sonic shift, and which to misinterpretations enabled by the transience of the listening experience, but I feel confident in saying that that next Real Estate record will be spacier and more multi-layered than previous efforts, featuring keyboards more prominently, and somewhat twangier guitars. In any case, I found the new songs surprisingly easy to love and get lost in on first listen, and am certainly looking forward to hearing the studio versions.

Between songs, band members kept up their usual, personable, stage banter. One of the most special moments of the night came when front-man Martin Courtney reflected upon his habit of ending tours at The Haunt. Wednesday’s show was the last of Real Estate’s fall 2016 tour, just as their 2014 show was the last of that respective tour, and further, Courtney ended his solo-tour, in support of debut effort Many Moons, in Ithaca back in February. Evidently, the band members are great lovers of Ithaca, which sort of makes sense when you think about Real Estate’s melodious, cautiously-optimistic vibe. “It’s a really amazing time of year up here,” reflected bassist Alex Bleeker later in the set, referring to upstate New York’s spectacular autumns, “have we reached peak-week yet?”

Undoubtedly they’ll be back again, and this time with a brand new stack of records on the merch table. I’d love to say that I’ll be here for round three, but sadly my time “far above Cayuga’s Water’s” is drawing to a close, and I can’t be sure where on the map I’ll be. Nevertheless, given the relationship I’ve built with Real Estate’s music over the course of my time in college, it’s a comfort to know that they’ll keep on playing it and always be warmly received at The Haunt; that some things will always remain, all the same.

Matt Pegan is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]