By: Robyn Rubinstein
Yeasayer :: 01.25.08 :: Bottom of the Hill :: San Francisco, CA
I spent almost 11 years with my head comfortably crammed all the way up one band's ass, and I loved it there. I knew the terrain intimately, all of my friends were there and it fed me in a way that made all other music seem superfluous. Once my head was forcibly removed, I couldn't believe how many things I had been missing. Whole universes of incredible music were passing me by, and suddenly I had a hunger for the undiscovered. Consequently, these days my favorite shows are those I have had little to no preconceptions about. Without expectations there's no disappointments, only the pleasant and satisfying twinge that comes with unearthing the new and genuine. Yeasayer is the latest gem in my excavations of the talented, innovative and unclassifiable.
Yeasayer is a Brooklyn-based band comprised of Anand Wilder (guitar), Chris Keating (vocals, keyboards), Ira Wolf Tuton (bass) and Luke Fasano (drums) that's been generating buzz since their 2007 SXSW performance. Their style is self-described as "Middle Eastern-Psych-Pop-Snap-Gospel." Take what you will from that tagline. They're one of the seemingly never-ending line of bands that bear the imprint of David Byrne, especially Remain In Light and his collaborations with Brian Eno. Yeasayer incorporate multi-part harmonies, chanting and nature-based lyrics with synthesized character, precision percussion and a multi-ethnic sensibility that feels like "when worlds collide" but not in a mass destruction sort of way. It is an ethereal synthesis of past and present folk, psychedelic rock and world music that works without sounding muddled, pretentious or tedious.
Their January 25 show at Bottom of the Hill was as engaging visually as it was sonically. Frontman-keyboardist Chris Keating sings with spasm-induced passion. He would stagger just to the point of falling over and then catch himself with a calculated jerk that was assuredly a dance move. Still, with each small paroxysm, I was ready for him to pitch off the tiny stage, in spite of the venue's copious "No Stage Diving" signs. He also had some of the most solid maraca work I've ever seen, especially for a plastic maraca, which he fervently chucked toward the drummer when he was done with it.
"We're so glad to be here," Keating told the sold out crowd, "especially after last night's show in L.A." He shared an anecdote about accidentally hitting a girl in the head with his plastic maraca the night before. "She was fine. She even gave me a hug after the show, but her boyfriend, this Kevin Federline-looking motherfucker, was PISSED. The sound guy even stopped the show. It was nuts."
|Yeasayer's Chris Keating by Jeremy Krinsley|
"Fuck that place," bassist Tuton chimed in. "We played in hell."
Drummer Luke Fasano's cymbal looked like it was either a piece of installation art or had lost a fight with a weed whacker. In the center of his kit was an electronic drum machine that seemed responsible for the ritualistic beats that Yeasayer is becoming known for. It was a tangible representation of their pre- and post-modern amalgam. "Waiting for the Wintertime" was hugely layered, reminiscent of the most energetic moments of TV on the Radio mixed with Middle Eastern tones. "2080" is their obvious anthem. The sum became much greater than the parts on this song, where an upbeat tone offered stark contrast to the skeptical lyrical view of the future.
It's a New Year
I'm glad to be here
It's a fresh spring
So let's sing
In 2080 I'll surely be dead
So don't look ahead
Never look ahead
The bridge contains what may be the most original sentiment I've ever come across, sung by all four unified voices ringing out: "And the pain that we left at the station will stay in a jar behind us. We can pickle the pain into blue ribbon winners at county contests." I'm fairly certain that in the history of rock n' roll, no other lyricist ever thought to pickle pain. "Waiting For The Summer" had a mystical sensibility with gorgeous harmonies that sounded far more celestial than one would expect from adorably gnarled indie rockers. On their first LP, All Hour Cymbals (read the review here), "Sunrise" opens the album with a gospel feel and echo-y hand claps that feel like church. Live, the song had a similar though darker religious fervor, reminding you that it's probably best to repent.
You may not know Yeasayer yet, but I promise you will. Their proprietary version of genre-defying rock music is poised on the edge of being huge. It's only a matter of time before they slide over the precipice.
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