Thao with the Get Down Stay Down’s Party Atmosphere

November 5th, 2009

Thao with the Get Down Stay Down – Bowery Ballroom – November 4, 2009

(Photo: Shervin Lainez)

(Photo: Shervin Lainez)

The cover of Thao with the Get Down Stay Down’s newest album features frontwoman Thao hitting a piñata with a cheering crowd behind her (including the rest of the band). Never mind that the piñata is actually an oversize human heart and that there’s blood streaming out where the candy should be. It’s a perfect image for their music, a put-a-smile-on-your-face party. The tone of their Bowery Ballroom show was set before they even hit the stage when the album’s opening 30-second track, “The Clap,” played over the P.A. This was a directive to the crowd: You will clap. Sure enough, the rest of the night was a clap-along, sing-along, fun-filled Festivus.

The key word here is fun, and how could you not have fun with a band name like that? The music was deceptively light and bubbly, riding on a bouncy bass. Thao had a twitchy, kinetic energy with a slight rasp to her voice that was irresistible: It was clear that almost everyone in The Bowery, man and woman, had a crush on the woman and on the music. There is an indistinct ethnicity to the songs, a sort of Euro-Afro-Caribbean combo. This is sexy, flirty music, way groovy without getting too thick.

Before “When We Swam,” Thao explained that the lyric was “Oh, bring your hips” not “open your hips” and had her bandmates demonstrate a hip-centric dance move (“If you do it, you’re gonna get laid!”), then proceeded to flirt, PG-13 style, with her music, tickling her guitar and getting a giggly groove out of it. For the encore, they nearly recreated the album cover with nine people on stage, including members of the stellar opening act, the Portland Cello Project. It was a party, through and through. —A. Stein