Baths w/ Braids + Blackbird Blackbird @ Kung Fu Necktie 02/13/10

Published on February 16th, 2011

My excitement for this show first started mounting when I saw Baths play the same venue as an opener for El Ten Eleven in the fall. A key difference was that his previous set was one played humbly on the floor in front of the stage to a smattering of onlookers. This one, on the other hand, was a highly anticipated, very sweaty and sold out performance by an artist who is quickly on the rise and constantly crafting dense pop well beyond his years. He may not have been on the floor anymore, but with his kind manner and intimate nature, it felt like he could have been.

The energy in the room wasn’t the only thing that was contagious, as every member of the tour had contracted a fairly debilitating sickness that turned speaking voices into raspy whispers. Somehow though, when the melodies started pouring out, the sound was as powerful and beautiful as ever.

The show began with San Francisco’s Blackbird Blackbird, whose dreamy pop and dance beats were a great warm up to the night. This bedroom project has been evolving over the past few years, and much of the material he played was new, unreleased work that is taking his sound is a new direction from his fine debut LP, Summer Heart. His new songs replaced some of the dreamy vocals and general haziness of previous material for a harder hitting, dubstep-esque sound. His stage presence was awkwardly energetic, often encouraging the crowd to ‘Woo’ more then a crowd should, but his friendly demeanor and impressive knob turning made it all admissible and maybe even charming.

The next opener was Montreal’s Braids, who were most notably struck by illness, yet managed to perform a commanding and spellbinding performance that left many onlookers awestruck. While their presence on stage during set breaks was somewhere between minimalist and zombie-like, when the songs began, the members of Braids became seemingly possessed by their shoegaze-pop epics and filled the room with rousing vocal harmonies build on waves of lush atmosphere and poly-rhythmic drumming. Singer and guitarist Raphaelle Standell-Preston was especially captivating with her gorgeous vocals that at times recalled indie goddesses such as Victoria Legrand of Beach House and Joanna Newsome. The band stormed through their stellar debut Native Speaker, which came out early this year on Kanine Records, hitting on standouts like ‘Lemonade’ and a personal highlight, ‘Glass Dears.’ The whole album seems to be grounded in Feels-era Animal Collective influences, yet delivers a fresh and exciting sound.

Finally, Baths aka Will Wiesenfeld took the stage with nothing but a Macbook Pro, AKA drum pad, and some fake tea candles to accompany him. The similarly sick Wiesenfeld made us aware of his illness. “It is going to be a journey, but we’re going all the way,” he croaked, before blasting into glitched-out opener ‘Apologetic Shoulder Blades’, which is also the opening track to his game changing debut LP Cerulean. The set was a solid mix of cuts from that album, and various new songs that showed the breadth of Baths’ quickly expanding material. Every song was performed with the utmost precision, yet his presence on stage was approachable and goofy. The contrast was striking, since his demeanor is carefree while the emotional depth present in each song felt in no way disingenuous when being performed. Baths lit up the room with standouts like ‘Indoorsy,’ ‘You’re My Excuse To Travel,’ and ‘Plea’ while also showing off a darker, more brooding new track, as well as an impossibly catchy new pop number and a self proclaimed ‘very gay’ new club/dance track.

The whole night may not have been the most comfortable for the under-the-weather performers, but they did anything but phone in their performances. There was a strange kind of life that accompanied the lack of health, and it resulted in a night to remember. It’s almost scary to think what it would be like to see them all perform healthy.

Setlist:

Apologetic Shoulder Blade
You’re My Excuse To Travel
New Song
Indoorsy
Animals
New Song “Bury my body in you’re graveyard”
Maximalist
New Song
New Song
Lovely Bloodflow
Hall
New Song “You came out”
Plea

Encore:
New Song

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