Six Parts Seven live: a step up from Ikea?
Six Parts Seven
July 10, 2007
By Ben Westhoff
Six Parts Seven—five guys in T-shirts and various stages of beards, and a female clarinetist (no T-shirt, no beard)—are an indie-rock jam band. At least, that’s the vibe the group’s banjo player gave off, shuffling across the Mercury Lounge’s stage in bare feet and cut-offs.
Actually, you may know this band from Kent, Ohio from All Things Considered to which they have contributed segment-segueing ditties. (Appropriately, their half-capacity audience gave off serious NPR-on-my-presets vibes.) Kicking off a tour with headliner Richard Buckner, nothing in the band’s entirely instrumental set was the least bit offensive. That is, unless nothing the least bit offensive offends you.
“It’s the musical equivalent of Crate & Barrel,” my girlfriend complained midway through the show, later claiming this was a compliment of sorts. “It’s a step up from Ikea.”
Highlighting songs from their January release, Casually Smashed to Pieces, the six-piece earnestly chugged from simple, medium tempo tune to simple, medium tempo tune, each seemingly written for a vocalist without any range (minus the vocalist). It was music for your mind to drift by, so much so that the crowd seemed to forget they were supposed to clap after the songs were finished. Even the clarinetist kept planting herself on a stool just off the stage, as if having trouble maintaining her equilibrium.
Brooklyn alt-country wonderwall Richard Buckner, however, did not lack for intensity. Clean-cut and as sturdy as a linebacker (and almost as big), he snuck over to the right side of the stage and began fingerpicking before anybody knew what hit them. But hit them he did, with bleak, cryptic existential tales, more wrenched from his soul than played. Not exactly Crate & Barrel shopping music.
Seemingly rejuvenated, Six Parts Seven retook the stage for Buckner’s second song. Immediately obvious: they desperately need a singer. Obligatory baseball reference (in honor of the All-Star Game): Adding Buckner’s sweet pipes to your band is like getting Albert Pujols to play on your little league team.
Rarely rising from his chair, Buckner squinted, shut his eyes, looked towards the ceiling and bobbed his head like Stevie Wonder. A friend of mine asked if he was blind. No—he’s just performing a singer-songwriter self-exorcism, man! The crowd—now at about three-quarters capacity—apparently picked up on this. They spent little energy trying to dissect lyrics like “Man, I was high/stepping out on goodbyes/And once in a while/I’d stumble out into the open,” and instead devoured Buckner’s raw, guttural emoting—particularly on “Goner W/ Souvenir,” off his 1998 gem Since.