Live: Gang Gang Dance, High Places, Conspiracies at Southpaw



Gang Gang Dance
High Places
Tuesday, April 29

As I squeeze myself into the packed, sold-out Southpaw, I happen upon my friend Dave, who is almost beside himself during the High Places’ set. “They’re lip-synching!” he protests, and sure enough, Mary Pearson’s voice, while gently processed, does sound far too even and discernible considering that her diaphragm exudes barely a whisper for each line. When she places her mic before a rattle, he becomes incredulous: “There’s no way you can pick up an acoustic instrument like that on-stage!” His conspiracy theory grows to include the duo merely playing iPods onstage, but it’s hard to tell amid the mess of wires and Rob Barber’s scattered percussion that gently power High Places’s winsome exotic-onica.

Conspiracies abound throughout the night. Before Gang Gang Dance’s set, their first in many a moon, Davey Tare and Kria Brekken make an announcement that the evening’s affair has been secretly sponsored by Camel and denounce the tobacco behemoth (already no-no’d for such clandestine dabbling in “indie” music last year) for infiltrating an independent venue and a night of independent music. And when GGD take the stage, there’s a new drummer on the throne, with longtime bundle of wires and manic riddims Tim DeWit nowhere in sight. No one says a word about it. (Afterwards, GGD’s label The Social Registry says that DeWit is not out of the band, just “taking a break from the band.”)

Gang Gang Dance has been known to hibernate for long periods and when they do emerge, one never knows where they might be sonically. Perhaps because of an initiate on drums in a band known for dizzying, on-the-fly polyrhythms, they play a set of rather straight-ahead pop songs tonight. Some earmarks remain the same: Josh Diamond’s guitar mimics synthesizer textures, while Brian DeGraw’s array of keyboards and electronic drum pads loose both translucent ambient washes and dense clusters of drum breaks.

What is striking is how Lizzie Bougatsos’s voice is foregrounded in the mix. She’s made both Yoko Ono and Lisa Gerrard (leading to many “Dead Dead Can Can Dance” jokes in the past) moves in the past, perhaps to mask her shortcomings as a singer, but she is in strong voice tonight, eschewing her array of electronic effects for good portions of this entirely new set of songs and growing more comfortable as the set unfolds. At one point though, a digital loop of her wail appears mid-air while she’s far from the mic; it doesn’t feel conspiratorial though.