Celestial Shore - The Silent Barn, New York - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Celestial Shore - The Silent Barn, New York

by Alexis Somerville Rating:8 Release Date:2012-10-15

This was my first time in New York City, indeed my first time in the US, so I was more than a little bit excited about going to a gig in Brooklyn, at a venue I'd heard only good things about. The Silent Barn is unlike any DIY venue I've been to before. It has all the ramshackle quirkiness you'd expect and hope for, but seems decidedly efficient and clean. The garden is populated with odd sculptures which may have previously belonged to a children's playground. Maybe it still IS a children's playground, sometimes. An authoritarian giraffe stands tall, a sign on its neck notifying concertgoers not to bring alcohol outside.

On the way into the venue my friend and I initially enter the wrong room, where a different gig is happening. It turns out to be a happy enough mistake as we catch part of a set by Bright Future, who sound really good in an 80s British darkwave kind of way. We soon realise we're in the wrong place, though, and continue our journey into The Silent Barn.

We find a larger room, with a crowd gathering in time for Zula. There is plenty of artful graffiti on the walls and the shoes hanging from the ceiling above the stage are somehow not even slightly incongruous. Zula quickly win me over with their classic garage-rock sound and excellent rhythm section. They hark back to New York music scenes past, with the lead singer's nasal vocal delivery evoking Jad and David Fair of Half Japanese. Their set is also pleasantly varied; all jangly indie one minute, epic and soaring the next.

A break between bands allows time to grab snacks from a nearby taco truck. Which begs the question: Why aren't taco trucks a thing in the UK? Anyway, post-taco we arrive back at the venue while Omhouse are setting up. They mention they're down from Toronto and between songs the innately charming singer strikes up a rapport with the audience. Their songs range from grungey guitar-pop to slow build-ups and epic choruses. With a bit of complicated, proggy guitar thrown in and some great onstage chemistry, they don't sound like a band who just formed in April of last year.

The crowd multiplies and edges forward towards headliners Celestial Shore, who are on the verge of releasing their debut full-length album 10x. The record was mixed by Greg Saunier of Deerhoof and his influence is clear on first listen. The live show employs plenty of the same qualities: strange beats and breakdowns, oddly high vocals, clattering crescendos and an altogether unmistakeable sound.

Opener 'Tick Tock' is a psychedelic take on math-rock, incorporating elements of surf-guitar. It dissipates into a jazzy, disjointed breakdown midway through before bassist Greg resumes high-pitched vocal duties. This sets the pace for the rest of the show, during which guitarist Sam also gets in on the vocals and drummer Max gets a lot of exercise.

One of the highlights is 'Valerie', also one of the standout tracks from 10x (not The Zutons-penned/Amy Winehouse-covered song of the same name). It's a lovely, downbeat track with enough whimsy and Pavement-like melody to bring it back from the brink of sadness even as Greg sings glumly, "I wish that I'd never met you at all."

For a band with just one full-length album thus far, they have a lot of material at their disposal. Other than 'Valerie', they only play two tracks from 10x: 'Sleep' and album opener 'Stairs Under Stars'. There are several other songs - some from previously released EPs - which showcase yet more of their jazz-rock moments, some well-rehearsed garage-psych ditties and plenty of bizarre yet pretty vocal harmonies. The audience is definitely into it and I suspect many will come back for more given that Celestial Shore play around NYC on a regular basis, as well as further afield.

I speak to Sam after the gig. He's super nice and I try to convince him they should come and play in the UK, perhaps for Brighton's Great Escape Festival where they'd fit right in with the buzz surrounding emerging talent. Here's hoping that, along with taco trucks, they make it over the Atlantic soon.

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