This show marked what may prove a turning point for me: I actually wore earplugs. It seemed prudent, considering the massiveness of Tartufi's sound, the modest size of the Reef's concert space and the necessity of retaining what remains of my hearing to keep this blog going. The joys of getting older and more responsible.
A couple of hours prior to the show at the Reef, I stopped by the Record Exchange and checked out part of their celebration of Bob Dylan's 71st birthday. Some personal highlights: Catherine Merrick and Kayleigh Jack's sultry "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," a "Things Have Changed" that featured some bad-ass wah-wah fiddle soloing, and Steve Fulton's desolate "Mama, You've Been On My Mind." Best in show: John Hansen's majestic "Bob Dylan's Dream," which showed the young whippersnappers how it's done.
I got down to the Reef around 8:15. The posters said that the show started at 8, which in rock and roll time usually means 8:30 or 8:40. As it turned out, the show didn't start until around 10. Sheesh. Being unemployed pays off sometimes. Still, when the show actually started, I couldn't complain much.
Four-person Brooklyn group Hospitality opened the show with some tough, tuneful indie-folk-rock. They adorned their impeccable pop melodies with sharp guitar solos, elastic bass and high-powered drumming. Amber Papini's breathy voice made up in shrewdness for what it may have lacked in range and power. Their set included a solid cover of Steely Dan's "Rikki Don't Lose That Number", and their original songs didn't sound any worse for it. A good start to the concert.
After Hospitality came Here We Go Magic, another four-person group from Brooklyn. The Facebook event page for this show mentioned that HWGM can count Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich among their fans. That gave me some trepidation initially--I am NOT a big Radiohead fan--but in this case, I'm glad that I let my curiosity overcome my prejudices. This band's African-derived groove, ethereal guitars and catchy chants might have cheered up Ian Curtis himself. "I believe in action," lead singer Luke Temple sang, and they made the audience believe too (lotsa folks were feeling the beat). Extra kudos to Jen Turner, whose thick, rubbery basslines served as the music's bedrock and secret weapon.
Tartufi took the stage after Here We Go Magic. I was grateful for the chance to see this San Francisco-based group again: I enjoyed their previous live performances immensely but, to my surprise, found myself left a little cold by some of their recorded music. The problem came, I think, not so much from the music itself but from the fact that I listened to it on my laptop's dinky speakers. In order for Tartufi's powerful art-rock to really work, it needs to flood your senses. It might be better to listen to it on headphones or on a stereo system with really bitchin' surround sound.
The best way to take in Tartufi, however, is live. In concert, this band generates a feeling of almost religious awe. The audiences at the shows that I've attended tend to stand still, look at the stage and let the music wash over them. The band's generally undemonstrative stage presence seems to add to this feeling: as they solemnly deliver their loops, hooks, riffs and tunes, it's almost as if the music is flowing through them from some otherworldly source. I suspect that Tartufi knows on some level the effect that they create: it can't be accidental that they've closed the two previous live shows that I've seen with a retooled Hebrew hymn. This night's set ended with an original composition (I think) but generated the same feeling nonetheless. I wonder what Tartufi would come up with if someone asked them to score a film adaptation of The Divine Comedy.
Yeah Great Fine, a five-man indie-rock band from Portland, closed out the night. They thanked what remained of the audience after Tartufi's set for staying up so late, and their idiosyncratic funkiness definitely kept these stalwart folks awake. The band's mock-cowboy outfits stood out in jokey contrast to the African base of their music. Staccato guitar lines, dreamy keyboards, unobtrusive basslines and jazzy, boiling drums hopped and bopped around with each other, and both band and listeners did likewise. Yeah Great Fine's set concluded with a joyous cover of Fugazi's "Waiting Room," which they prefaced by inviting everyone to sing along if they knew the words. I thought it very much to the audience's credit that a big chunk of them did (they were one up on me: I didn't recognize the song until close to the end).
You can find info about these groups on Facebook and elsewhere online. Also, to those of you who disapprove of my not considering Radiohead the greatest thing in the history of recorded sound: any complaints must be submitted in the form of crappy emo poetry.
PS Very special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Duck Club Presents.