Thursday, June 4, 2009

Live: Coyote Eyes + Anabolics

When: 5/30
Where: Flytrap Festival

I've never been to a Flytrap event before, but I decided to check it out, mostly to catch up with Coyote Eyes, whom I haven't been to see for a while. From the looks of things, Flytrap is more of a social event than a music event, which is fine but I don't think I'll be back - too hard to concentrate on the band with three-fourths of people there engaged in high pitched conversations about how happy they are to see one another. I'm not happy to see anyone, as I am a curmudgeon and a total nerd and music is my only friend.

But that's neither here nor there.

Since the show was running later than scheduled, I arrived in time for a set by the Anabolics. I didn't know anything about the band, and I quickly realized that's for good reason. The band isn't bad, but their songs were formulaic pop-rock with adequate but unmemorable melodies, predictable chord progressions and unvaried 144 BPM tempos. The music was pleasant (it's called "pop" for a reason) and everyone was quite good at their instruments. But the whole was nothing more than the sum of its parts. The only components I found interesting were the mobile major-key bass lines. Other than that, if the band was aiming for average, they hit a bullseye.

That said, the trio was have absolutely massive fun on stage. They seemed so genuinely pleased when their friends went wild after each song, it's hard not to warm up to them a little bit. After all, if you're making decent-sounding music that your friends love and having the time of your life playing it, there's nothing wrong with that. That's part of what being in a band is all about. [MySpace]

Next up was the main course, Brooklyn's Coyote Eyes, a band that has been slowly but steadily accumulating hype around the city since last year. When I first saw them, I was impressed but not blown away. But after that show, I found myself increasingly obsessed with getting my hands on a copy of their key song to date, one "Yellow Red." (Thankfully, the band must have telepathically sensed my desperation, as they kindly sent me a set of mp3s including the song. Disaster averted.)

At this show, the band was noticeably stronger. Acoustics were more on their side this time and more importantly, they have a few more months under their belts. Not that they were lacking in confidence or focus back in January, but this time, they appeared to have no doubts at all about who they are as a band.

I may be imagining things, but I think this time around, bassist Marta DeLeon had a higher proportion of the lead vocals. If so, it's a smart move - she has an outstanding voice and a rare ability to write catchy but still unique melodies. The vocals by guitarist Manny Nomikos sounded better Saturday than at the show January - maybe because he's improved, or just maybe because he could hear himself better. His parts are still amelodic (it's a word if I say it's a word), but that adds an entirely appropriate and interesting contrast to DeLeon's style.

As I remarked in January, one of the band's most impressive feats is its use of rhythm. By paying attention to space as well as sound, the instruments and even the vocals create subtly fascinating syncopation. Drummer Jeremiah McVay is exceptionally talented. I'd be willing to bet he has a background in more than just rock music - his style incorporated some tricks drummers learn most often in jazz, various "world" styles, etc. Those little hints aren't dominant in his beats, but even as lightly as they are used, they considerably broaden the band's indie-rock horizons.

The only downside of the band's unconventional use of rhythm is in DeLeon's vocals. The parts she writes are unlike any other singer that comes to mind. But the tricks she uses to accomplish this mostly involve leaping big intervals to create a rhythmic flow - highs and lows add emphasis to different beats while maintaining a strongly melodic current. And using such tricks in so many songs leads to a striking similarity between melodies. No matter what you change between songs, if the melodies are close, the songs will sound alike.

On stage, the band was comfortable, welcoming and entertaining. It's great fun to watch them get caught up in one song after another, and it's refreshing to see a band that gives a shit about playing their best - that's shockingly uncommon. When they finally did arrive at "Yellow Red," the second-to-last song of the set, they kicked everything up a notch, and became nothing short of captivating. If they can muster that energy earlier in their set, they'll be well on their way to becoming one of Brooklyn's best new bands. [MySpace]

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