Caveman’s Evolution

January 23rd, 2012

Caveman – The Bowery Ballroom – January 20, 2012

Surfing an ever-growing tidal wave of buzz around debut album Coco Beware, Caveman headlined a sold-out Bowery Ballroom on Friday night, displaying musical chops and hometown pride in equal measure. “We used to come to shows here in high school,” reminisced lead singer-guitarist Matthew Iwanusa between songs. He later, in true New York City spirit, asked, “Anybody know if the Knicks won tonight?”

In addition to all the NYC shout-outs during the set, songs like “Old Friend” and “December 28th” contained references to a range of other contemporary New York City bands like Interpol, Grizzly Bear and the Walkmen. Of course, the Brooklyn quintet adds its own spin to these pedigreed musical influences, most notably the penchant for throwing in extended instrumental jams, filled with screeching distortion and hazy feedback—a loud but pleasing wall of sound, in peak form during “Vampirer.” The impressive effects the band wrings out of its guitars can be attributed in part to the unique instruments themselves, personally crafted by Jimmy Carbonetti, one of the guitarists. Just as cavemen crafted their own tools, so too does Caveman, albeit in a bit more evolved way.

The expert guitar work was enhanced by washes of dreamy synth, powerful drumming and well-crafted vocal harmonies, demonstrated on songs like “Thankful,” “Decide,” and “A Country’s King of Dreams.” Although the group was clearly humbled to be headlining the venue (“The first show we ever played was here, and now … we’re doing this,” remarked Iwanusa) Caveman’s polished, bravado-filled performance was up to the honor. —Alena Kastin