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Friday, April 01, 2011

03.26.2011 Esben and the Witch / Julianna Barwick

I had to describe what Esben and the Witch's sound was like to a friend who listens mainly to top 40. The music mags have settled on 'gothic' something or other but I thought it brought up to many thoughts of dumb new emo or some black metal outfit. I wanted to say "experimental" but settled on a rock band playing a soundtrack to the salem witch trials. I was a little surprised to find out that they'd been here before last year. They've had some buzz back home in Europe since, but remain pretty under the radar here, which is why their headlining show this time around was at the Waldorf Cabaret, a small venue, possibly smaller than the Media Club.

Opener was Julianna Barwick. The thing she does better than anyone in the room was vocal loops. When I say vocal, I mean like ethereal choir-y vocals. Looping, she was able to create a very lush wall of voices. She may have had a minimal synth setup as well. I quite enjoyed her set. My interest did end up waning towards the end. It's one of those things where it might be better as background music if you're going to listen to it for a long stretch of time.

Not surprisingly, and this may also be due to the limitations of the venue, Esben and the Witch played to a very dark room. My camera scoffed at this, but it fit the mood so I didn't really mind. I knew going in that EATW's percussion department was pretty limited to one cymbal and a floor tom, with each member taking turns having a go at it during certain songs. Playing the floor tom would be an understatement, they were trying to break it. I was still a little surprised to find out how much sampling was used during their live set. Not really sure how I feel about that, I kept looking back at the mixing board to see if it was being done live, still not sure. Vocally and instrumentally their live show holds up their album. I would actually say they're a better live band. Due to a curfew, they only played 45 min, though I get the feeling they're also a little worn out from a long tour, as this was the last date of their NA tour. Still their songs were full of energy when they needed to be, (they really punished that floor tom), and dark and gloomy when it wasn't, just the way the audience wanted.

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