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Last Night

Live Review: Yeasayer at The Music Box

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Tue, May 24, 2011 at 8:50 AM
click to enlarge Anand Wilder and Chris Keating rock out - LESLIE KALOHI
  • Leslie Kalohi
  • Anand Wilder and Chris Keating rock out

Who: Yeasayer

Where: The Music Box

When: 5/23/11

If you don't believe in magic, this is not the band for you. If you are unable to suspend disbelief for an evening, this is not the band for you. If you are unable to trust your imagination, this is not the band for you. However, if you're willing to unlock the deepest recesses of your mind where you store the memories of those really weird dreams you can only half remember and let your thoughts wander unbridled, Yeasayer is a great deal of fun.

Now, fortunately it was quite clear that most of those who attended the packed show last night at the Music Box had enough childlike wonder reserved in their big, beating hearts to burst through those boring social fabrics of self-respect and dignity that usually guide their movements and actually got down last night. Not an easy task on a Monday night, but one that Los Angeles is usually quite capable of doing, given the right atmosphere, and Yeasayer is all about atmosphere.

click to enlarge Chris Keating - LESLIE KALOHI
  • Leslie Kalohi
  • Chris Keating

click to enlarge Ira Wolf Tuton - LESLIE KALOHI
  • Leslie Kalohi
  • Ira Wolf Tuton

When the curtains drew back from the stage the silvery grey smoke was so thick, it was impossible to tell whether the band was even on stage for the first couple minutes. All that was heard were loud metallic clangs, like robotic ironworks, coming through the fog, seemingly uncoordinated until a rhythm was formed, angelic harmonies burst through, and Chris Keating's high pitched voice wafted over the hullaballoo constructing "Sunrise" from their first album.

The set was as much about the visual as it was about the song. Unsatisfied with capturing the crowds' eardrums, Yeasayer attacked their eyes with a fury of candy colored strobe lights, crystal sharp lasers, and four searchlights mounted on posts in each corner of the stage. Depending on what the mood called for or what song was playing it felt as if we were a part of a prison escape, a violent thunderstorm, and occasionally an alien abduction.

click to enlarge Ahmed Gallab - LESLIE KALOHI
  • Leslie Kalohi
  • Ahmed Gallab

click to enlarge Chris Keating belting one out. - LESLIE KALOHI
  • Leslie Kalohi
  • Chris Keating belting one out.

This worked because of the sheer magnitude of each song. There were no quiet numbers that night. No time for self reflection or slow dancing. This was about standing back and letting five weirdoes from Brooklyn throw every sound they could think of at you. (And when we say weirdoes, we mean that with utmost respect reserved for the likes of Jim Henson, Willy Wonka, and Dr Suess.) Nothing was off limits. Foreign beats on congas and drum kits, '80s influenced hair metal guitar riffs, sharply pretty synths, and vocals that resemble religious chants are all stirred together to create a collage that makes Yeasayer's sound distinctly their own, which is no easy feat.

The all embracing crowd was more than willing to meet Yeasayer on their weirdo level, including a group of kids who decided to dress up as sea creatures: a lobster, a hammerhead shark, and a white shark respectively. "What is up with the monster claws?" Keating asked bewildered in the middle of the set. "Is that a thing now? That's weird. But I encourage the shark head." It's not often a band from Brooklyn is surprised by what the crowd is wearing.

The evening closed with their biggest hits: "Madder Red," "Ambling Alp," and their apocalyptic "2080." When that song came on there was a scream of unified delight. Fists stretched out in triumph, the crowd bounced up and down like a violent sea, singing along to lyrics that are branded on the bottom of their hearts and committed to muscle memory. "I can't sleep when I think about the times we're living in, I can't sleep when I think about the future I was born into." In this time of war, financial crisis, and terrorist attacks the song has become even more pertinent. What can we do about the our current situation? Not much. Might as well dress up as a crustacean and sing about it.

click to enlarge Jason Trammell is keeping an eye on you. - LESLIE KALOHI
  • Leslie Kalohi
  • Jason Trammell is keeping an eye on you.

Set List

Sunrise

Tightrope

Henrietta

O.N.E.

Mondegreen

Devil and The Deed

Rome

Wait For the Summer

Grizelda

Madder Red

Ambling Alp

Encore:

Demon Road

2080

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