Wednesday, April 27
Better than: That philosophy class you were forced to take in college.
“How are your lives, everybody? How is your being?” asked YACHT singer Claire Evans at Webster Hall last night. The question wasn’t rhetorical; it was the first of many that the band would hurl into the audience as part of its ideology-charged stage show. In between dancing, a short geography lesson, and group clapping, those in attendance got to ask some questions, too.
“What’s your favorite snack?” yelled one girl as Evans took questions mid-show. “As a group, we like to consume pure light,” she replied without hesitation. “It’s the closest we can get to photosynthesis.” This interactive game play is the sort of thing audiences have come to expect from the electronic disco-rockers, whose seemingly constant search for Utopia serves as their driving force. Behind them, triangles with smiley faces decked the stage in representation of the “Western American Utopian Triangle,” which, in this case, represents the shape that’s formed when drawing lines to connect their hometowns of LA and Portland with their “spiritual center” of Marfa, Texas. (Marfa is where Evans and Bechtolt saw the mystery lights that named their first release on DFA.) As for the band themselves, the two bassists/guitarists, drummer, and frontman Jona Bechtolt were dressed in shades of gray and black while Evans donned a white jumpsuit (decorated by cartoon aliens on the chest). Together, the group assumed a collectively androgynous air as they sung about summer love and socio-economic disarray.
The preaching went hand in hand with the band’s spaced-out synth-friendly dance tracks, which are overrun by vaguely monotonous chants. While the familiar bass-driven new-disco jam “Summer Song” encouraged the collected to move their feet along with Evans’, the combination of their deadpan delivery and seamless setlist made the live show one more appropriate to observe than to dance with. The talky “Afterlife” and a cover of Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law” inspired swaying, but it wasn’t until the onset of their newly released single “Dystopia (Earth Is On Fire)” when the crowd snapped out of its cloudy haze.
It doesn’t hurt that the track, taken from their upcoming album Shangri-La, is a little more cynical too. It maintains a minimal, drum-propelled dance groove live, but the post-apocalyptic singalong is one of their darkest lyrically (“We let our children multiply cause we’re afraid of dying”). The night’s other highlight was this track’s counterpoint, “Utopia”, which accelerated from a tripped-out funk beat into a fast-paced, keyboard-laden dance party. (“Where is Utopia?” another audience member asked. “Utopia can only exist in your mind,” the band said.) The set ended with the anthemic “Psychic City”, a reminder that to love YACHT is to love YACHT not in spite of their strangeness, but (mostly) because of it.
Critical bias: The funnier the leading lady, the better.
Overheard: “This is one of those shows where people are taking pics instead of enjoying themselves. I said that out loud instead of tweeting it.”–A tweeting man.
Random notebook dump: Jona: “Someone’s tiny hat made it onto the stage!” (puts hat on head) Claire: “How fedora-ble!”
Beam Me Up
I Walked Alone
Breaking the Law (Judas Priest cover)
Dystopia (The Earth is on Fire)
Love in the Dark
Tripped and Fell in Love
Psychic City (Voodoo City)
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 28, 2011