Last night Iceland's latest musical import, Seabear, finally made it to Los Angeles headlining a gig at the Troubadour. The seven-piece indie-folk band stood on the stage beaming, ready to win the hearts and minds of the small crowd that had gathered on a Tuesday night. With two albums under their belt, they were more than ready and there was an impatient buzz before the set began, making it clear that this show had been a long time coming.
Opening for Seabear, was a promising young band from Philadelphia with the ill-chosen name of Grandchildren. You knew their set was going to be different just from the untraditional stage set up.
Like two gentleman set to duel at dawn, Grandchildren had placed their two drum sets in the center of the stage facing each other, with two keyboards behind, and the guitarists on the ends.
The logic behind this was revealed within the first couple minutes of their set. The drums were the nucleus of each song, with all other instruments rotating around them as a secondary afterthought. Grandchildren's set was also a lot like musical chairs with each member of the band grabbing a new instrument and switching places after each song.
The result was a wildly energetic set filled with hundreds of good ideas piled on top of each other in an overwhelming group of songs. The band's motto seemed to be "Let's Add More of That!"--"that" being anything from trumpets, trombones, clicks and whistles, drumbeats, robotic voice effects, sound effects from video games, slide guitar, bass, handclaps, or whatever they could lay their hands on. The result was very similar to going to a late night diner and having your buddy order everything on the menu: a sort of "Are you nuts? How much stuff could you possible want?" feeling.
That being said, it was never dull. Every time one got to grips with what they were doing, they'd swing into another direction and a lot of time the melodies that came out were quite good. What they need is someone with an editing eye to pare down the whistles and the electronic blerps and perhaps some of the trombone so that every song is a cohesive idea, rather than nine ideas on top of each other.
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Seabear's set was the complete opposite of Grandchildren's when it came to organization. These guys lined up in an orderly row at the front of the stage, keyboards, violin, guitars, and bass with the horn section and drums behind like hipster soldiers ready for a drill. "We're very excited to play here," lead singer Sindri Már Sigfússon announced, "I read that Tom Waits has played here, so I assume he's here tonight. This one goes out to you, Tom."
Evenly balancing songs from their two albums, the septet played a picture perfect folk set the kind of which one would imagine only originating from the northwest.
The secret to their success lay in the the romance of Sigfússon's soft soothing voice and Gudbjörg Hlin Gudmundsdottir's fierce violin. Although each song was in English, between Sigfusson's accent and the mumbling delivery it was hard to distinguish what was being said, but it didn't really matter. "Jumping and wheeling over the melody, these two elements told the story in the heart of each song where the words failed.
The evening ended with a rousing round of "Seashell" in which the audience was required to fill in as the chorus, which they happily obliged, hands clapping along with the beat, until the whole room was a part of the band. One can only hope that it won't take another two albums for them to return.