December 26, 2011

Bear Hands / Deleted Scenes / Fort Lean - Music Hall of Williamsburg - December 16, 2011

Fort Lean

My decision to check out the three bands on Friday night's bill was at best a last minute decision. Therefore, I wasn't really acquainted with the bands before hand and wasn't really sure what to expect.  I had a chance to listen to Deleted Scenes new recording and I watched some Bear Hands videos on Youtube. As for Fort Lean, I didn't hear or see anything about them until they stepped on stage last Friday night.

As I write this, my first thought is that Fort Lean was a great band to open the show. They were a lot looser and less intense than the other two bands on the bill. When Fort Lean started at approximately 9 o'clock, the hall was a bit empty but it didn't seem to matter because the guys on stage looked like they were having fun starting from their first song "Perfect" with it's fast ba-ba-um beat to their last song "Sun Sick."

Fort Lean currently only has a self titled four song EP out. Therefore 5 of the nine songs they performed on Friday night were either brand new or just unrecorded. Their music has a pop-rock feel to it, stemming from the bleached blond Keenan Mitchell's crooning vocals and the jangling major sounding chords often played on guitar

There's definitely a traditional early R&B influence in Mitchell's melodies that can be heard in songs like "Dreams (Never Come True)." The song sounds like, if it were rearranged into a 12/8 feel, it could be a straight up 50s DooWop song sung by The Drifters. That's not to say that Fort Lean doesn't have a contemporary indie feel but just like all good music there are traces of the past.

Fort Lean seemed seemed pretty relaxed on stage, especially Mitchell, who took time out between songs to talk to the audience. He even blamed his bleached hair job on his girlfriend, when someone in the audience pointed it out. Bassist Jake Aron stood behind Mitchell, often working off of drummer Sam Ubl to his right or Will Runge when he was playing guitar instead of keys.

Lead guitarist Zach Fried was on the opposite side of the stage and out of my site range but was noticed whenever he soloed like in the song "High Definition." Fried was kind enough to answer the email I sent through the bands MySpace page requesting each band member's name. And Mitchell filled me on the last two songs of the bands set when I rudely interrupted his conversation with two women for set list verification, on the night of the show.

I enjoyed seeing Fort Lean live. Now that I have seen them a first time, I hope to see them again when they headline and have more recordings available.

Fort Lean's Set
Dreams (Never Come True)
The Mall
Beach Holiday
Do You Remember
High Definition
Sun Sick

Fort Lean are:
Lead Vocals/Guitar - Keenan Mitchell
Bass - Jake Aron
Keys / Guitar - Will Runge
Drums - Sam Ubl
Lead Guitar - Zach Fried

Deleted Scenes

Deleted Scenes is band out of Washington D.C. which is one of few things, guitarist and vocalist, Dan Scheuerman mentioned during their set. The band started out with both bassist Matt Dowling and guitarist Dominic Campanaro both hunching over a small Korg synth playing a tubular sounding bassline. A the glaring Scheuerman sang and played a high pitched guitar lead through most of the song. The song, the oddly named "A Bunch Of People Who Love You Like Crazy," had a slow steady funky groove held together by drummer Brian Hospital

Deleted Scenes reminded me of The Antlers, more so with regard to the intensity of their performance. By intensity I don't mean dark, I just mean they seemed a bit serious. There are parts on their new CD Young People's Church of the Air which are playful - but I can't say I felt that playfulness in their performance.

The second song "A Litany For Mrs. T" had a sweetness to it which Campanaro highlighted with his falsetto vocals along with jangled guitar chords. The song also had a rambling feel to it accented by Hospital's rapid fire kick drum.

Deleted Scenes sometimes seemed to drift into songs instead of actually starting them as was the case with "City That Never Wakes Up." This time the song strangely enough reminded me of Dirty Projectors. I couldn't tell if the song was in a odd time signature but I did notice the rhythm sounded extremely quirky, for lack of a better word.

"Mortal Sin," from Deleted Scenes 2009 album Birdseed Shirt, was another song the band seemed to drift into except this time the song had more of a hard rock blues flavor to it. Deleted Scenes followed up with something from the same album which was the timely song "Get Your Shit Together for the Holidays." I found it kind of strange because the title hook of the song sounded like something Ben Folds would write sin the wet vocals. Before the song was the first time Scheuerman spoke to the audience at any length.

Scheuerman made a point of mentioning the title of the next song "Bedbedbedbedbed" which is a really cool song but very strange one at the same time. The vocal had a sort of echoing sing song quality to it that went from major to minor and was underlined by a very strange beat played by Hospital on drums. The beat was a rapid fire snare played on the downbeats.

The band ended with "Days of Aderall" and "English as a Second Langauge."  The first having a weird swung African kind of groove and the second having a very distinctive kick drum. Both songs were my favorite in the set and both were more musically pop.  I thought the guys would do "Burglarizing the Deaf," which I was looking forward to hearing, but oh well maybe next time.

Deleted Scenes Set List
1. A Bunch Of People Who Love You Like Crazy
2. A Litany For Mrs. T
3. City That Never Wakes Up
4. Mortal Sin
5. Get Your Shit Together For The Holidays
6. Bedbedbedbedbed
7. The Days of Adderall
8. English as a Second Language

Deleted Scenes
Dan Scheuerman - vocals/guitars
Matt Dowling -(bass/keyboards)
Brian Hospital - drums
Dominic Campanaro - guitars and keyboard

Bear Hands

Bear Hands started their set with just Ted Feldman on stage.  Feldman did an elongated version of the the guitar intro for "High Society." The intro wasn't too long  - it was at most 3 minutes before the other three guys in the band came out and went into the song. From that point on, the band basically went straight through their set with very short intervals between songs. Bear Hands, like Deleted Scenes, were very focused but more so because it seemed like they were trying to get as much new material into their set as they had time for.

I wasn't sure I was going to withstand an entire set of Dylan Rau's vocals, who's sound reminds me of Perry Farrell from Jane's Addiction. Besides his sound, Rau tends to pronounce or put an accent on consonants when he sings, like when he sang "Blood and Treasure," there was emphasis on the "ur" in treasure. But barring any prejudgments, I actually got used to Rau's voice and accepted it within the context of the bands sound.

"Belongings" was one the songs I really enjoyed in the set. I like the way the guitars played off of each other and were underlined by very constant drum and bass played by TJ Orscher and Val Loper. The song is on Bear Hands 2010 album Burning Bush Supper Club.

I wasn't sure if Rau was asking the audience or telling us, but he said "You don't mind if we experiment on you." The song was new and it's title on the set list is "Agora." Unlike "Giant" which is another new song Bear Hands has been doing for awhile, no one has filmed the band performing the song for uploading toYouTube.

"Can't Stick Em" had a certain punk feel to it that reminded me of the early 80's English band Wire. And now that I think of it, so did "Bad Blood" - even with it's picturesque slide guitar played by Ted Feldman evoking mental images of tropical islands. I think the two songs I just mentioned were most familiar to the audience because it was at a point in the set where everyone on the floor seemed to liven up. (I was on the balcony)

Someone kicked off a sampler or a drum machine for the Tabla sound in "Tablasaurus" which was one of my favorite songs in the set. The audience seemed to cheer for this song as well. Bass player Val Loper played a tom that was set in front of the drum kit for the song and Rau played the small Korg as he sang. As an aside, I checked out the official video for this song which features a beautiful young blond made up as a Brigitte Bardot look alike. Shot in black and white, the video simply reveals a moment in time when a (assumed) college professor is looking at the young blond as she whispers into a young man's ear between taking drags off her cigarette.

"Julien Donkey Boy" seemed like a change of pace in the set. Even though the song is mid-tempo it seemed slower than other songs. The song also seemed to be a narrative of sorts. So, I looked up "Donkey Boy" on-line. The first definition I landed upon was in the urban dictionary defining it as a young man with a big penis. That didn't seem quite right, so I looked up "Julien Donkey Boy" and found out through Wikipedia that it's actually an Independent film. Even though Chloë Sevigny is in the film, there didn't seem to be any "Brown Bunny" moments, so I gather that "Donkey Boy" is in reference to the protagonist's schizophrenia.

Bear Hands did a couple more new songs between old favorites. If the songs weren't completely new they were newer in terms of not yet being released recordings. Each song had a memorable line that stuck out. The memorable lines in the "The Bug" are something like "Got the bug - now I feel better. I'm just waiting for the phone call. Call me now or call me never, call me anytime at all." In "Bad Friend" the memorable line is "I'm the only one who gives a fuck - Bad friend but still I love you"

Before getting to the next new song "Giants." which they have been doing for awhile, Bear Hands did one song from each of their recordings - specifically the EPs Golden, What A Drag and the album Bearing Bush Supper Club. The memorable line in "Giant" is "I have said this before, I am loving more."

The band's last song of their set was "Crime Pays" which I was definitely waiting for along with the rest of the audience. Bear hands ended the way they began. With Feldman, being the last to exit, leaving his guitar pedal to make a resounding noise that filled the room. The band came back not too long afterward with "Long Lean Queen," which I didn't hear as an encore song. But then again, take that from where it comes, the song might be a favorite among long time fans.

After Bear Hands finished their encore, one of them gave a guy standing near the stage their set list. I was watching from the balcony, so I went down and asked the guy if I could take a photo of the set list. He said there were two versions - the original which they were going to do and a Sharpie marker handwritten version on the reverse side which they did. I think Bear Hands did a combo of the two. Going by my notes I'm pretty sure my list is what they actually performed.
    Bear Hands Set List
  1. Intro
  2. High Society (Frank)
  3. Blood & Treasure
  4. Belongings
  5. Agora (New Song)
  6. Can't Stick Em
  7. Bad Blood
  8. Tablasaurus
  9. Julien Donkey Boy
  10. The Bug
  11. Bad Friend
  12. Golden
  13. What A Drag
  14. Camel Convention
  15. Giants
  16. Crime Pays
17. Long Lean Queen

Bear Hands are:
Dylan Rau - vocals/guitar
Val Loper - bass
Ted Feldman - guitar
TJ Orscher - drums