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Crystal Stilts Earn Their Indie Stripes

February 22nd, 2010

Crystal Stilts – Music Hall of Williamsburg – February 20, 2010

(Photo: Jared Levy)

(Photo: Jared Levy)

Indie is an expansive term. Originally meant to denote an artist’s or band’s independent status from the major record labels, the word is now a catchall for musical otherness. Alternative rappers, punk rockers and electronic pioneers all receive indie branding at the semantic convenience of music journalists, fans and industry types. While some bemoan the use and abuse of the term, others claim victory for the growth of the genre. However, among the clusters of emerging pop-based acts, some bands deserve proto-indie status, and Crystal Stilts should be considered among them.

The Velvet Underground and Joy Division are godfathers of independent music. The fact that Crystal Stilts draw comparisons to both of them speaks to their authenticity. In 2008 the group released its heralded debut album, Alight of Night. Since then they have toured extensively and released a couple of excellent 7″ records. On Saturday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, a crowded bill featuring German Measles, Beach Fossils, Christmas Island and the Beets joined Crystal Stilts for an extended night of lo-fi rock.

When Crystal Stilts went on around midnight, a Saturday night of music had already occurred. As the headliner set up, the crowd began to swell and the excitement grew considerably. Harkening to their punk influence, the band stoically performed their short, distortion-heavy tunes. While I overheard one fan remark that “this crowd needs to dance,” he neglected to notice the core of fans front and center grooving from the neck up. The band’s set list, while short, included new songs and closed with the quick, dirty and eminently catchy “Love Is a Wave.” In an era when everyone claims to be indie, it is refreshing to experience a band worthy of the classification. —Jared Levy