A Band That’s Hard to Pin Down

October 22nd, 2012

Why? – Music Hall of Williamsburg – October 20, 2012

(Photo: Dan Rickershauser)

Why? are such an odd band that it’s hard to not spend all your energy describing what makes them so unique as opposed to so damn good, but I’ll do my best to elaborate on both. Why? began as a stage name for the then Berkeley, Calif.–based artist Yoni Wolf in 2004, although he’s now based out of his hometown, Cincinnati, or in his own words: “the land of Procter & Gamble and cop scandals.” The group is currently made up of six people, with members filling the Music Hall of Williamsburg stage last night with almost every instrument imaginable. Occasionally there were two drummers involved, and at other times, it was two xylophones. There were even some moments of three-part harmonies. Almost everything was centered around rhythm, and despite all the instrumentation, their sound never felt cluttered. And everything right down to the competing tones of two ringing xylophone parts felt deliberate.

If Why? fall under any individual genre it’d be rap, although it’s such a peculiar form of rap that the moniker indie is usually also involved. Wolf’s singing voice sounded almost like what you’d imagine They Might Be Giants to sound like if they ever began rapping. With a backing band of five playing rhythm-heavy arrangements, Wolf’s cadence was allowed to pick and choose what beats to hit and follow. The organic nature of the arrangements also allowed for the backing band to drop out completely at times, giving Wolf the breathing room to spit out verses a cappella before the rest of the band jumped back in to fill the void. The set was heavy on songs from the freshly released Mumps, Etc., although Why? were sure to include some favorites from Alopecia as well, including “The Hollows,” “Good Friday” and the crowd-pleasing “The Vowels, Part 2.” And then the show ended with “Gemini Birthday Song,” off their first full-length, Elephant Eyelash. —Dan Rickershauser