Reindeer Games

Dictators can take away your name, but not your drum set

Somebody told me Interpol's Paul Banks stepped into the Bowery for Caribou's set and left five seconds later. Any number of thoughts could have passed through Banks's mind in that time; my guess is four. The first: "Is the dude in the middle of the stage Caribou?" The second: "I look hilariously like Caribou." The third: "Sucks Caribou had to change his name from Manitoba because that Handsome Dick guy threatened a lawsuit." The fourth: "Which reminds me, I need to send another check to the guys in Gorgeous Cock Interpol."

This night, "Who is Caribou?" was indie's "Who is Mike Jones?" a cheeky question more fun at first than its pasty Canadian nerd answer. Banks's doppelgänger turned out to be a ringer; on tour Caribou swell in number from multi-instrumental, neo-kraut laptopster Dan Snaith to a trio including Snaith on drums and keys, Fake Banks on guitar, and another guy on drums (himself a fake Hacksaw Jim Duggan). Snaith could have relieved this identity crisis by taking the mic for the opener, "Yeti," but instead pre-recorded vocals kicked in, leaving the crowd lost for someone to stare at. Fake Banks even made a point of closing his mouth, a gesture that should have felt refreshing in this post-Ashlee world of Lip-Synch McCarthyism, but instead sapped the stage of its post-Four Tet rebound energy. Side note: Four Tet, dude, you're gonna need more than that pixilated smirk and mawkish double-laptop lid-slam finale to keep the crowd interested.

Snaith declassified midset to sing "Hello Hammerheads," a somber number stuck in extreme pianissimo and high falsetto—in other words, an impossibly difficult song live. His identity secured, Snaith's thin delivery raised that tired but still relevant question: How do laptop-based acts manage success onstage?

Drums—lots of them—were Snaith's answer, and for now the shtick works. His best new songs rely heavily on motorik's growing churns and tom-tom overdubs that make those hotshots from Drumline look like sorry Starr wannabes (Kenneth, not Ringo). Slowly the crowd realized this set was less one to watch and more one to feel, the Bowery's bass-lack overcome if only by the number of drums being hit at once.

 
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