Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Live: Grass Widow

This review is late.  It was supposed to be up early last week, but, ya know.

So Grass Widow.  Everybody's nuts for these three girls from Oakland, CA, and the other weekend was the first time I'd seen them live.

Basically: yes, the live up to the hype.  It looked like about every decent musician in Brooklyn had turned out to see them at one of their two DIY shows.  I caught up with them at Death By Audio.

Grass Widow's greatest strength is melody, and it translates well live.  All three members of Grass Widow sing on pretty much every song, weaving melodies and harmonies deftly.  And their melodies are great - sticky sweet but always just a little strange and off-centered.  While many bands who seem to receive praise for their melodies actually fail to generate the momentum that comes with melodic arcs (rather than just three notes repeated, cough cough), Grass Widow's songs don't drag.

But the melodies alone aren't what makes this band so charming.  It's that their tunes are so unpolished.  The singing is decidedly amateur in sound and the instruments are equally raw - but that's not to say the band is unpracticed.  Having three melodic lines in addition to three instruments would pose a challenge to incompetent musicians, but these three ladies are locked in as tightly as I've heard any band in quite a while.

The band's ramshackle pop does have moments where vulnerability seems teeter on the brink of wimpiness, but there are also moments of pure bravery - such as a long section entirely unaccompanied by instruments.  That's no small thing, dropping the sound out of your band to the point where you can hear exactly what proportion of the audience is bored and has turned to their friends for a chat.  In this case, though, most of the audience was rapt.

The set was concise, ending quickly but not flagging for a minute.  And any doubts I had about the group's musical sincerity were assuaged by the bands they played with - experimental, feminist noise like Talk Normal and Broken Water (at Death By Audio) and K-Holes (at Glasslands).  Grass Widow are the real thing - a band with true talent and true inspiration.  Believe the hype. [myspace]


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