Public Service Broadcasting – The Bowery Ballroom – April 10, 2015
With a name like Public Service Broadcasting, it’s easy to get a little dyslexic and mistake them for the Public Broadcasting Service. But this London duo repurposes samples from public information films with stark and catchy instrumentation. J. Willgoose, Esq. adds strings and samplings while Wrigglesworth takes cares of the drums. Both have a hand at the electronic instruments, but they don’t sing. With their latest release, The Race for Space, the lads take on the USSR literally, taking clips from speeches and old public service announcements during the battle to get the first man on the moon.
Three, two, one: Commence liftoff to an intergalactic dance party at The Bowery Ballroom Friday on night. The bookish pair landed onstage with little fanfare as Wrigglesworth tapped the drum pads for the opening of “Sputnik.” Throughout the evening, songs were complemented with old stock footage mostly of the space race, but also other montages ranging from motor transit to the heights of Everest. In addition to not singing, neither band member spoke throughout the set, but rather opted for a speech synthesizer to communicate, although Willgoose, Esq. added emphatic arm gestures to punctuate the robotic vocal greetings and commentary. It was especially executed on “Theme From PSB,” as he cleverly included “Bowery Ballroom” into the song. The dance floor was really pumping for the Daft Punk–like, guitar-driven track “E.V.A.” and the b-boy beat of “Gagarin.” My personal favorite moment of the night came with the more quiet and melodic “Valentina,” which paid homage to the first woman astronaut, Valentina Tereshkova, as footage of her training and return from her launches.
Approaching the end of the set, Public Service Broadcasting offered more tracks from their debut album, Inform-Educate-Entertain, including fan favorites “ROYGBIV” and the song about a plane, “Spitfire.” Not to let the crowd leave feeling unfulfilled, PSB returned to encore with a new tune, “The Other Side,” and an old song, “Everest.” The evening offered not only dance-y tunes, but also visual aids that took concertgoers back in time. The touchdown back to reality might have been abrupt, but the wonders experienced would stay with us. —Sharlene Chiu