Swedish Extraterrestrials Descend on Music Hall of Williamsburg

April 24th, 2013

Goat – Music Hall of Williamsburg – April 23, 2013

The backstory on Goat is that they’re from some isolated region of Sweden, but after watching the great cosmic freak-out that is their live show Tuesday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, I’m not so sure that isn’t some sort of elaborate cover story for actually being a bunch of extraterrestrials here to rearrange our brains. The band, their music and the buzz surrounding them seemed to all appear at once in some kind of spontaneous combustion some time last year adding to my conspiracy theory. The coup de grâce, though, was how the entire group appeared onstage with masks on, fully dressed for some psychedelic costume party, hiding something.

Once they started playing, though, each instrument jumping in one at a time, the sold-out crowd wasn’t too concerned with Goat’s origins. The music was largely from last year’s World Music album, which is an apt title: Their show was like these aliens had swallowed the planet whole—the people, their music, their clothing, their cultures—and then regurgitated it in mind-numbing musical form. The result was Indian raga crossed with Afrobeat and Native American tribal rhythms through some sort of Black Sabbath-meets-the-Grateful-Dead rock and roll lens. In a word: Whoa!

The set was 60 minutes of relentless activity, the crowd alternating between funk-night boogie, arms-raised raging and eyes-closed beatification. Most pieces opened into an extended instrumental jam, guitars, bass, drums and congas reaching some interplanetary spot. As awe-inspiring as these forays were, the keys to the operation, surprisingly, were the two ladies up front who sang, undulated, danced and maraca-ed their way across the stage in constant motion. Their voices brought form to the songs, their percussive flourishes were the imported finery the music was draped in, their movement rooted the audience to terra firma, lest our bodies join our minds on the mother ship, to be taken back to that spot in Scandinavia, or whatever planet Goat call home. —A. Stein