Yes, these are real band names and yes, they did co-headline a show at Music Hall of Williamsburg this past Wednesday night. However, it’s pretty safe to say that their performances are whole other animals i.e. completely different. (Get the pun? Bears, Tigers…if only the band Paper Lions had opened it could’ve been Lions, Tigers, and Bears. Oh my! Too far with the puns?)
The first opener, Jack & Eliza, played a simple set with only two guitars, sonically reminiscent of She & Him. Jack played rhythm guitar and backup vocals while Eliza took lead guitar and vocals. Eliza’s use of the guitar was creative as she switched between using it for simple guitar riffs or as a mock-bass. Total Slacker, the second opener, was quite honestly jarring after the smooth stylings of Jack & Eliza. The best descriptor I can give is that Total Slacker is a band created around the idea revitalizing “Negative Creep” by Nirvana. (If you don’t get the reference, shame on you!) I can venture to say that I did appreciate the lead guitarist’s sonic exploration, manipulating the sound of the guitar by moving it up and down the amp, holding it upside down, or playing it behind his head.
Miniature Tigers were the clear quote-on-quote “crowd pleasers” of the night. Going into the show with limited knowledge (read: basically none) of their music, I can honestly say I left a fan. They essentially transformed Music Hall of Williamsburg into an alt-rock disco dance party. (I mean it’s already halfway there with the iconic disco ball.) You could tell the band was having fun, which just makes the experience a joy for the audience as well. Let’s just say there was a happy, homoerotic vibe among the band members: some extremely close microphone sharing and neck grabbing, a butt-slap, and a kiss. The more lovin’ the better as far as I’m concerned. Charlie’s gender-bending voice was sultry and whispy; his vocal range is very wide, and he tends to sing comfortably up at the top of it. The bassist though, Brandon Lee, was my favorite. Dressed in his plaid-collared shirt, cuffed pants, and (essential) hipster suspenders, he played the godlike bass with my favorite technique (the walking bass finger promenade), and danced like a metronome or grandfather clock, making a pendulum of the sacred instrument one calls a bass.
They debuted a few songs off of their upcoming album Cruel Runnings – a witty title. Based off what they played, there are more discotheque, sexy songs about love and lust in store for Miniature Tigers fans. During a slower love song, Charlie jumped down into the crowd and stealthed around, serenading and making intimate eye contact with audience-members as he stalked among us. Their final song, “Sex On The Regular”, was especially fun for the crowd as we got to let loose some pleasure-laden scream-sighs along with Charlie during the instrumental bits. Fans called for an encore afterwards and were left disappointed that Miniature Tigers had to vacate the stage for Bear Hands.
After two opening bands and the sexed-up dance party that was Miniature Tigers, I was ready to finally hear Bear Hands. Unsurprisingly, they opened with “What A Drag” from their debut album. Their show is best described as an inward performance. Sonically, and vocally, the quality was top notch. No foibles. On the other hand, no jam sessions or solos. It was a pretty tight set by nature of their songs generally structured to fit a 2-3 minute formula. Dylan Rau – singer, guitarist, and keyboardist – parked himself stage left much like Tosh.0 – feet planted together, minimal movement. Live, I figured out the quality of his voice that I couldn’t quite put a finger on in my album review: a vocal delivery navigating the space between singing and spoken-word.
A highlight of the show was the aggressive “Peacekeeper” halfway through the set. It’s all spazzing lights, crashing symbols, rapid guitar riffs, and running bass lines until the end when it all suddenly stops to highlight Dylan’s quiet vocals and guitar strumming. The crowd knew every word of “Agora” and “Giants”, a set of singles saved for the end of the setlist. The boys came up to the front of the stage to play the stripped back intro track to their sophomore album, “Moment Of Silence”. They played up the anticipation in the song: stringing out the moment where they switch from the acoustic-ish beginning of the song to the amped up second half, introduced by the bass. Their show typified this sonic schizophrenia in a tangible way, as I saw in this song. Their final song was “Crime Pays”, a track the crowd had been requesting all night.
This show was four concerts in one: folky dream, college noise experiment, disco dance party, and spoken word/sonic schizophrenia. Be on the lookout for Miniature Tigers’ upcoming album, Cruel Runnings, and go check out Bear Hands’ sophomore album Distraction out now! And while you’re at it, go read album my review here.