Interpol, Boom Bip
at the Greek, September 20
Cincinnati’s Boom Bip (a.k.a. Bryan Hollon) is one of underground music’s most
arresting auteurs, a visionary who gives breath to the kinds of detailed soundscapes
that, could they be illuminated with a black light, would glow with radioactive
bits, fallout from Boom Bip’s blast on the sometimes restrictive idea of genre.
A true mash-up artist, Boom Bip melds epic rock, experimental indie, hip-hop
and electronica into a waxy, pliable substance shaped by his intelligence and
rogue sense of structure.
At first, Boom seemed like any other reasonably hip band guy with a necktie
and charcoal pants straight from the coolly detached department of his local
thrift store. But a few telltale signs of Boom’s penchant for technology — namely,
a laptop and battery of knobs and levers — gave the act a surprisingly distinct
and soft feel. With lush drafts sounding like the white noise of your home’s
ventilation, Boom’s technology isn’t about coldness but familiarity, warmth.
Forget Radiohead; this is the real OK Computer.
And then came the cold snap. Interpol, dressed black as kettles, played one
of the tightest, yet most bloodless concerts to puncture the Greek in ages.
Starting off slow with “Next Exit,” Interpol baited and switched to a particularly
rambunctious version of “Slow Hands,” assaulting the crowd with sodium-white
lights before settling into the noxious braintease of “NARC,” a home base of
sorts. With “Antics,” the band’s true colors were revealed: Not black so much
as several shades of grey, and live, Interpol valiantly hunted to describe the
full spectrum of their songs. Sometimes it just seemed like a fool’s errand.
As “Take You On a Cruise” stretched into a violable skin, finally rupturing
into something like a goth version of the old Grateful Dead chestnuts “Space”
and “Drums,” clouds of marijuana smoke hovered above us in the night air. But
no tinkling anklets here, just silence.
Antony and the Johnsons, CocoRosie
At the Vista, September 22
In an interesting turn, Silver Lake’s beautiful Vista Theater opened its doors
for two unique musical artists. Opening sister act CocoRosie (Sierra and Bianca
Casady) presented a provocative performance-art blend of audiovisuals, unconventional
instrumentation, strange costumes and quasi-rap/opera. Philosophically intriguing;
In stark contrast was the bare-bones setup for Antony Hegarty’s set. No visuals
— just a grand piano and four-piece string section. The audience was eager to
see if Hegarty would live up to the hype: Internationally acclaimed and recently
given the Mercury Prize, Antony has been compared vocally to Nina Simone, stylistically
to Klaus Nomi, and aesthetically to Leigh Bowery — all tragic legends. In his
earnest performance, Hegarty did indeed fulfill the hype, and could perhaps
draw comparison to one more tragic legend, Jeff Buckley. Like Buckley, Hegarty’s
live performance wasn’t tempered by pretensions of greatness — it was an unadulterated
artistic exchange with the audience. After bashfully uttering, “Oh, thank you
guys…” no more than a few times between songs, Antony stopped mid-set and
began thumbing through his notebooks, finally deciding to improvise. First,
he led the audience in a clap-along, hoping to sing to its rhythm. When that
didn’t work, he chuckled mischievously and began his own rendition of Whitney
Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” successfully turning the pop hit into
a sullen torch song. Throughout the show, some audience members wiped tears
from their eyes as he played, contorting his large body and swaying in a circular
motion as he sang. As the night ended, the audience rewarded him with a standing
ovation, shouts of “Bravo!” and thunderous stomping. Returning for the first
encore, Hegarty demurely smiled and asked permission to play “Candy Says.” After
the second ovation, he coyly shooed the audience offstage: “Go home, guys! Go
home!” So many were visibly moved by the performance that, not surprisingly,
the gentle giant stood outside the venue perched against a wall and spoke to
those who weren’t quite ready to go home.