FRONTIER(S), BANQUETS & IMAGE SOCIETY St. Vitus August 15, 2014
This story began outside the bar. My buddy Jessica and I had hung out the entire day prior and got into a deep discussion about this blog, why I want to keep writing and why it’s so important to include more women in this discussion. I casually said I’d be going to this show and, when it came time for us to go our separate ways, she said, “Can I come with you to Greenpoint? Is that OK?” It was more than just OK. After our conversation about how she needed more music in her life, it was IMPORTANT that she come. We met up at Washington & Fulton and rode together on the Kent bike route, the weather strangely chill.
Jess and I arrived at St. Vitus, grabbed a few beers and headed to the back. (Side note, St. Vitus, you need to charge more at the door if there are fees for your online ticketing. Turned out, I could have spent less at the door. So weird and a bit of a turn-off. I digress…) Jess and I wandered into the nearly empty black and velvet room where we posted up near the right hand side of the stage. She admired the space, saying she didn’t know why she’d never been there before but that it had an intimate garage-y vibe. I agreed. St. Vitus is one of the few venues I follow for their incredible lineup, great acoustics and unchanging surliness. I’m sure everyone else in the neighborhood says the same (with probably a lot more friendly expletives).
cut into our discussion with incredible sweetness; they had everyone’s attention instantly. Driven by funky yet super tight bass and drum rhythms, the band was anything but shy about their diverse roots. The surf-sounding tones of the guitar melodically wove off-tempo with the vocals, lending even more technicality to the insatiable dance-y rhythms. Some might have labeled it math rock in the 2000’s, had they judged before hearing Sean’s bright and bold R&B vocal styling. We could tell how devoted they were; their sound was so tight and each member displayed it in their trance-like movements. Needless to say, the set was intoxicating. And, to top it off, they dedicated their set to Jay Rosenthal. If there wasn’t already a clear Long Island presence in the room, this humble acknowledgement opened the floodgates for an atmosphere of friendly ghosts.
After their set, I recognized an old friend standing a few feet away. Mike (Cohen) and I caught up. We exchanged some defeats, but mostly joys and successes before launching into sharing old LI experiences. I was excited that Jess was there to take part in these conversations, too. It probably made even more sense to her how this sort of love for music is bred through teenage experience.
I’d never heard them before, but Banquets seemed the ideal follow-up to our nostalgic conversation. Their sound hearkened back to our teenage post-punk days with just fast, flailing beats and strong, catchy melodies. A few mini breakdowns, positive energy and sing-along-worthy vocals. If I knew the words, I definitely would have joined in with the two gals standing in front of us.
The Louisville band started playing out of nowhere. No intros, no jokes, just a powerful force of sound. They were the band I came to see and with good reason. Yeah, sure, they’re slightly famous because of Chris Higdon’s history, but not for me. I never listened to Elliott in the day (shhh, I said I knew who they were but never listened). I heard their latest recordings after binge-listening to the incredible Tiny Engines catalogue and was instantly hooked. Though Higdon’s voice was not as loud as I’d hoped (I think he was either recovering from a cold or near to losing it) that was the only complaint I’d had. The four-piece was completely in-sync, drawing off one another’s kinetic energy, though keeping a bit reserved in their mature sound. There was little time for words in between songs, which reinforced their stage presence; they were seasoned vets in this genre with no time to dick around. “Our March” was the fourth song to play. A personal favorite, it insights that sort of ridiculous religious experience we get after a few beers, only I get that feeling every single time I hear this song. The guitars soared, rolling waves crashing onto a carefully-calculated beat. As the song built in intensity, it immediately arrived at this cathartic alternating melody between the rhythm and lead, a dramatic ending, but one far from undeserved.
When the last note of the song faded, Mike leaned over saying, “that sounded like Long Island.”
And in that particular moment, they really did.