Tags: Beach Fossils, Brooklyn, Brooklyn Steel, Dustin Payseur, Jack Doyle Smith, Live Music, Mimi Hong, Music, New York City, Photos, Somersault, Tommy Davidson
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Hometown prodigies Beach Fossils played Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday night based on the strength of their self-titled debut, which is little more than a year old. There’s something about their disarming simplicity and songcraft that resonates with so many people. But when a first album is so universally loved, it can be hard to top its success, although the one place a group has to be taken at face value is onstage. It’s in playing shows night after night that bands make long-term careers. The strength of the songwriting gets you to that stage, but how you deliver on that promise is what keeps you there.
And Beach Fossils are delivering: Building on their album’s straightforward instrumentation and heavily gated, mechanical percussion, the four-piece has expanded on its sound live, turning it into energetic, rocking pop. On Friday, the band was spinning, caught up in the double-time jazz fill rhythms, and jumping around almost more than the crowd. The far-off heavily echoed vocals and the sense of distance have been replaced with a more immediate sounding reinterpretation of the catchy, dreamy vibe with drum-heavy dance beats.
Everything is driven by John Pena’s basslines, which take the sound out of the suburbs of Real Estate and into foot-tapping grooves, compelling people to climb onstage and dance along. Beach Fossils are genuinely appreciative of those in the audience, encouraging them to keep moving. Frontman Dustin Payseur even said, “There probably should be a mosh pit going on here because I’m jumping into all you motherfuckers later.” And then delivering on his promise during the encore, Payseur lifted his guitar over his head and ran out into a sea of arms as a sped-up “Youth” ended in a chaos of a finale. —Jason Dean
Singer and multi-instrumentalist Josh Kolenik was living in Portland, Ore., when someone suggested using Small Black as a band name. He remembered that upon returning to Long Island. And once there, Kolenik and a musician friend, Ryan Heyner, headed to Kolenik’s uncle’s attic and began recording dreamy pop songs. Their self-titled EP came out last fall, and after rounding out their live sound with Jeff Curtin and Juan Pieczanski, the Brooklyn band began to play live shows. A debut LP is on the horizon, and Small Black (above, performing “Despicable Dogs” for the Tripwire)—with Beach Fossils— plays Mercury Lounge tomorrow night.
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