May 19, 2011

White Lies / School Of Seven Bells / Sun Airway - Terminal 5 - May 19th

Sun Airway

Sun Airway come out of Philadelphia and consist of Patrick Marsceill on the drums and Jon Barthmus vocals and keyboard. Like many duos I've seen and written about they consist of an instrumentalist and a drummer.  Those duos that come to mind are An Horse, Big Gigantic, Matt & Kim, and Holy Ghost.  Similar to Holy Ghost and coincidently School of Seven Bells, Sun Airway record as a duo but tour with additional musicians.

Sun Airway walked on stage 10 minutes earlier than the 8o'clock showtime stated on the ticket or the Bowery Presents calender page.  Since I was seeing the band for the first time, I didn't know who of the five musicians were actually Sun Airway.  I suspected that the guy singing and playing keyboard, who happened to be Barthmus, was one of the two.  But didn't know Marsceill was the drummer until I wrote the band for info.

My first impression while listening to Sun Airway's first song "Infinity" was that they musically reminded me of The Antlers. Both bands have an electronic sound that often seems to simmer or float while staying on one or two chords.  And although Barthmus' voice is nowhere near as high as Peter Silberman's, it has the same soulful quality.

As they moved through their set, I noticed the Sun Airway had some cool rhythmic stuff happening which was often complimented by Mike Fleming's bass lines.  Unfortunately, the sound quality for their set was not very good and even though their was some funky things happening their total sound didn't feel cohesive. At times, the music felt a little scattered which I attribute to the musicians in Sun Airway not hearing themselves.

Still and all, Sun Airway had some interesting songs like "Waiting on You," which had offbeat lyrical meter or "Your Moon," which had some distorted programmed keyboard sounds against drums and clap percussion. My favorite song in the set was "Shared Piano" which oddly enough had more guitar sounds then keyboard piano.  Sun Airway zoomed through 6 songs in 28 minutes and received a respectful response from slowly accumulating audience. I hope to see the band again in a venue other than Terminal 5 which has never been high on my list as a place to see opening bands.

Sun Airway Set List
Oh Naoko
Waiting on You
Your Moon
Shared Piano
Pull the Days Away

Sun Airway are:
Jon Barthmus - Vocals and keyboard
Patrick Marsceill- drums
Daniel Armitage is on the keyboard sampler and backing vocals
Mike Fleming is on bass
Chris Doyle is on guitar and percussion

School Of Seven Bells  (SVIIB)

For my opening statement, I will get the trivial out of the way by stating that both Benjamin Curtis and Alejandra Deheza are both very sexy.  During the latter part of School Of Seven Bells' set, members of the audience were screaming out something to that effect and Curtis joked by saying that they must be referring to him.  Nothing wrong with having two sexy members of the opposite sex both on stage, it actually made the music they performed even more appealing.

Prior to seeing SVIIB, I looked up their past set lists. Therefore I automatically knew, on Thursday night, that they were doing the same set backwards. That was fine with me because, even though I like School Of Seven Bells'  music,"Sempiternal/Amaranth" is my least favorite song.  On the other hand, "ILU,"  with it's straight forward dance beat played by drummer Zachary Saginaw, is my favorite.  There's something very dreamy about the song and about that Ah-aah background vocal line, moving a half-step up, that ropes me in.  (On Thursday night, I wasn't sure if I was actually hearing a sampled vocal or if there was a synth line being played with my mind filling in the vocals - either way I was feelin' it.)


At times, guitarist Alejandra Deheza's vocals definitely sound like Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins, specifically when there's a chorus and/or reverb on her vocals.  This was pretty evident during the song "Windstorm" and "Joviann" when even Deheza's lyrical phrasing reminded me of Fraser.  But, while I'm making comparisons,  The Hundred in the Hands also comes to mind.  In School Of Seven Bells', Benjamin Curtis controls most of the programming and guitar work while Alejandra Deheza fills the sound out with some guitar parts and sings.  The Hundred in the Hands has the same set up except that Jason Friedman controls the programming and guitar work and Eleanore Everdell playes synthesizers.  Not suprisingly, both duos play music that leans toward an electronic and guitar driven dance sound.

School of Seven Bells ended with "My Cabal" which I believe they recorded when Deheza's twin sister was part of the band.  I was a little disappointed the SVIIB ended, leaving out "Half Asleep" which I was looking forward to hearing.  They did a pretty good set but it was short.  I would like to see them headline sometime in the near future.  I've been listening to their newest CD "Disconnect From Desire" quite a bit and it's really grown on me. The next time I hear SVIIB, I will be ready for a full set.

(SVIIB)School Of Seven Bells  Set List
My Cabal

(SVIIB)School Of Seven Bells are
Benjamin Curtis - on electronics and guitar
Alejandra Deheza - vocals and guitar
Zachary Saginaw - touring drummer 

White Lies

I was originally slated to see White Lies on January 27th at the Highline Ballroom. Unfortunately, New York had a snow storm and the boys never made it across the pond. It took a little less than 4 months but I was able to see them for the first time on Thursday night. Though I would have preferred to see White Lies at the Highline instead of Terminal 5, it was definitely worth the wait. They performed a fabulous set.

The band walked on stage with a little bit of fanfare as prerecorded orchestral music played. As soon as they were ready, the orchestral music seemed to go directly into "A Place to Hide" which of course made the audience cheer.  White Lies show wasn't sold out, so the third floor of Terminal 5 was closed.  However the first floor was completely full and the second level was full as well, though not packed.  I couldn't help wonder if that is why Sun Airway started early and School of Seven Bells only did 5 songs. If the reason is that the bands were rushed because the show wasn't sold out, I can't help but feel it really SUCKS!!

Before going into "Holy Ghost," Harry McVeigh greeted the audience and then said "We weren't expecting as many," which was another indication to me that there was some disappointment regarding the amount of tickets sold.  As a song "Holy Ghost" reminds me of the 80's band The Teardrop Explodes.  There's something about McVieghs voice that reminds me of lead singer Julian Cope on many other songs as well.

McVeigh has a definite stage presence that is sexy in a very well groomed and tailored way. His little speech before going into "To Lose My Life" made me chuckle a bit.  He said "We came all the way from London, England to be here," as if he didn't know that people go back and forth to the UK so often nowadays that it's like a trip to Coney Island.  Then he said "We like your city ...we're having a good time," which made me wonder if he said the same thing in Philadelphia.  When the boys finally did that 3rd song, it was the first time I noticed what a kick ass drummer Jack Lawrence Brown is, at least that's what I wrote in my notes. Almost like a solo piano accompanist follows a singers vocals, a great drummer like Brown knows how to work off of the lead vocals by both supporting and accenting him.

On "EST," I noticed that touring musician, Rob Lee had changed over from keyboard to guitar to play the heavy lead part.  The band immediately followed "EST" with "Is Love," which has grown on me. I have to admit that hearing the song in concert helped. I have always found it strangely ironic that the verse to "Is Love" sounds like the 70's disco song "Love Is In The Air." by John Paul Young.  I can't be the only one who picked up on the similarity in melodies; it's actually more apparent than Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" vs Madonna's "Express Yourself."

"The Price of Love" was the part of White Lies set when the band kicked into high gear. The song's intro always reminds me of something momentous like a battleship pulling into shore. But once Brown's drumming picks up and moves away from that marching 4/4 beat, he propels Charles Case to play some fast and fluid basslines. Toward the end of the song McVeigh prompted the audience to clap as if he were leading the band during a halftime performance at the Superbowl.

Harry McVeigh said a few words to the audience then raised his right hand in the air, the band started to play "Streetlights" on cue.  Each time the band reached the chorus of "Can anybody hear me, is anybody out there," I heard the audience sing along.  Next, McViegh played his frontman-MC role really well by chatting up the audience about how good it was to be back in New York and then following it by slowly stating the title of the next song which he knew was a favorite.  Once "Fairwell To The Fairground," was announced the crowd cheered, clapped and sang along as expected.

The opening to "Peace & Quiet" has an intriguing quality to it.  I loved the electronic tom pads that Brown played in the beginning of the song and the eventual grinding guitars. And while I thought it was just something I was hearing on the recording, during the song, there are points when McViegh's voice sounds like Roland Orzabal of Tears for Fears.

White Lies second to last song of their set "Bad Love" dragged just a bit.  In other words, enough to notice but not to mind. McViegh prompted the audience to clap along for the last chorus. Since he wears his guitar really low, he has no trouble hand clapping and gesturing. I also noticed throughout the show that McViegh does Elvis twitching with his right leg but it comes off more like a teenage boy with motor legs under the kitchen table.

The audience went wild, sang and clapped along for the last song "Death." Before striking the first chord on his guitar, McViegh stood with both hands behind his back for the opening verse. (As he did several times during the show.) It was kind of like a school teacher standing over his class while they're taking a test.  McViegh stuck his fists up in the air on the line of the bridge that went "I live on the right side and sleep on the left , why does everything have to be love or death."  The band then rocked out by double timing the rhythm on guitars while the audience cheered, sang and danced in place.

White Lies did come back for an encore but there was 50% of me thinking - it's not a packed house they might not.  But they were good sports - it took a short while but they eventually did.  It occurs to me as I write this that although White Lies have song titles that are morose those titles can sometimes be ironically appropriate. For example, the last song of their set was "Death" and they came back for an encore with "Unfinished Business."

McViegh came back wearing his white shirt without the suit jacket for the three encore songs. To say the least his delivery of "The Power and The Glory" was extremely dramatic but God dammit - I like a man with conviction!  The band ended with "Bigger Than Us" and the audience sang along for every chorus. White Lies finished the song, then walked off and back on stage for a quick final bow before exiting.

It was quite awhile ago that a friend in the UK suggested I see two bands.  The first was White Lies and the second was The Editors.  The latter seem to have more recognition in the states but they are both great bands. I would love to see them both on the same bill though that might be just too much to handle.

White Lies Set List    
A Place To Hide
Holy Ghost  
To Lose My Life  
Is Love 
The Price Of Love 
Farewell To The Fairground  
Peace & Quiet  
Bad Love  

Unfinished Business  
The Power & The Glory  
Bigger Than Us 

White Lies are:
Harry McVeigh - Guitar
Charles Cave - Bass
Jack Lawrence Brown - Drums

Touring Musicians:
Tommy Bowen - Keyboards 
Rob Lee - Keyboards and Guitar

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