Cuddly Grizzly Bear

November 21, 2012 § 2 Comments

Grizzly Bear play the State Opera House.

Grizzly Bear play the Wellington State Opera House. Photo courtesy of @fantalefm.

Grizzly Bear is an anomaly and I mean that in a really good way. The band from New York gets called indie rock but given how its music confounds and transgresses the rules of so much that is stereotypical about rock, that label does it a disservice and blinkers the sparkling music it makes.

There were times last night when Grizzly Bear sounded a bit like the Fleet Foxes, or 70s progressive rock, or abstractly jazzy with elements of Kurt Weill thrown in. But none of these tangential references are really remotely accurate. Grizzly Bear sound like Grizzly Bear and there’s no one else around who can come close to what these guys are doing.

Many bands have gifted and talented singers – think Radiohead, The National, Vampire Weekend, Beach House, Lawrence Arabia, Phoenix Foundation – but how many have an embarrassment of riches like Grizzly Bear with three fine vocalists interchanging and harmonising?

They are multi-instrumentalists too, adding textures with flute, saxophone, trumpet, clarinet, lap steel and piano. It is rock music that sounds like nothing and everything, a hypnotic pop sensitivity that shifts from swagger to dreaminess in a heartbeat, and there’s nothing else to do but surrender to the swelling drama of the music.

I had a deep feeling the band would make its weirdly idiosyncratic albums sound even better on stage and that’s exactly how it happened. Grizzly Bear is a different animal live – so adept at changing the mood and feeling of a song. Heard in the flesh, the music is taut and elastic and it sounded pristine in a venue that celebrates its 100 anniversary next year. Seeing artists play at the State Opera House sells itself but when it happens to be musicians of this kind of calibre, the whole experience becomes exquisite.

Grizzly Bear last night played songs mainly from its most recent albums, Shields and Veckatimest. Songs like Two Weeks, Ready Able, Yet Again, Gun Shy, Half Gate swooped and soared while A Simple Answer came chugging out majestically, showing just why these guys are currently so highly cherished by fans and critics everywhere.

Part of the anomaly that is Grizzly Bear is that it sounds like a cult indie band but one that smashed the charts when its second to last album, Veckatimest, soared to eighth on the Billboard 200 charts in 2009.

Grizzly Bear is so hot right now. There’s a rare chemistry at work here – not the kind that creates an explosion but the kind that makes rare, swirling colours. It was such an extraordinary treat to see the band play Wellington for its first time. It helps that Grizzly Bear comes across as a band of friends who are enjoying a long moment in the sun and as long as that moment lasts, there’s so much to love about these five guys from Brooklyn.

I took some video. The first one (Yet Again) is only 17 seconds long because one of attendant Nazis rushed over to tell me to stop. The second one (Two Weeks) was done guerilla-style and it shows but at least the sound is clear.


The view from the moshpit and other fan tales

May 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Photo by Julie Warmington

Julie Warmington says she’s always been a big music fan and avid gig goer and she’s got the ticket stubs, set lists, photographs and autographs to prove it.

Coinciding with New Zealand Music Month, this enterprising music fan has started the crowd sourced website, Fantale: Tales From the Front Row, for all music lovers to share their reviews, photos, videos and other souvenirs.

Originally, she had planned to create a timeline of her gig going history (“hundreds of gigs”) with her ticket stubs. She did some market research on what the average concert goer did with their show souvenirs – both digital and analogue – and arrived at the concept for Fantale.

Julie says the website – which is fully socially integrated where contributors can build up their profiles and follow and be followed – has only been live since April 25 but she’s been encouraged by the traffic, links and referrals that Fantale has been receiving.

“I even got a retweet from a Britpop star (James Walsh of Starsailor) which was unexpected and welcomed, but the most exciting thing was seeing the first user post a photo and review on the site,” she told SMNZ.

Fantale’s first listing was made on April 27 – a post by Loniusunknown of a Disasterradio/All Seeing Hands/Huf show in Palmerston North on April 21.

Julie says the reaction from musicians and the music industry has been really supportive. “I have been blown away by the feedback. Those people really count so I am pleased it has been well received.”

As far as Julie knows, there is no equivalent website in New Zealand for fans to share their reviews of live shows, as well as other concert ephemera. There are websites like Songkick that allow fans to add photos but it is not the main focus.

Fantale is also a natural extension of what Julie has been doing. She has worked with music companies and digital agencies in Britain, including four years as a marketing manager for MySpace. She currently works in Wellington as a digital producer.

The website is designed by Joanna Alpe at We Love Inc. “Not only was she the natural choice for me because she is enormously talented, but she totally got what I was trying to achieve.”

Julie’s next priority is to create a mobile app for Fantale because mobile technology means most fans are increasingly expecting to upload images or video directly from gigs. She promises a development in that regard and is currently looking for funding to make it happen.

Music lovers and artists now have a dedicated website for sharing their experiences of live music, long after the last beats have played. As New Zealand Music Month closes out for another year, it is hoped that one of the long term legacies from this year will be Fantale.

Also look for Fantale on Twitter and Facebook and send Julie your feedback on what you think of her website and how it works for you.

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