Beirut w/ Sharon van Etten, Yellow Ostrich
Friday, June 17
Better than: The rainout that at one point seemed likely.
It was hard to see Yellow Ostrich through all of the umbrellas when they first took the McCarren Park stage on Friday. By the time the band finished their first song, though, the umbrellas had been retracted and only a double rainbow to the north was keeping eyes off the Brooklyn three-piece, most notable for their use of multiple delay pedals to loop their vocals and instruments like trumpet or bari sax, or, as on the set’s highlight “Daughters,” all three on top of each other.
After they finished and the rain clouds continued moving further and further away, Sharon van Etten came out and—aside from recognizing both her parents, who had (once again) made the trek in from New Jersey for her set, and the double rainbow—played a slew of songs, most from 2010’s Epic. She began with “Peace Signs,” the harmonium to her left gesturing towards the heart-wrenching performance of “Love More” that would bring her time on stage to a close. In between, she supplemented the Epic tracks with Because I Was In Love‘s “Tornado” and two new songs with Ben Lanz and The National’s Aaron Dessner.
Perhaps worried that the rain might return, headliners Beirut wasted little time, playing only one song before their best, “Elephant Gun,” a tune about running away from home for kids who would never have the guts to do actually do it. The escape, of course, comes in the music, and it’s an escape into the past, into France, into a hundred-or-so-year-old sonic tradition that has here, in the early 21st century, been resignified into youth music.
The band played a solid set with few tricks or twists, giving the audience the pleasure of hearing a little over an hour of past highlights and a few songs from the upcoming The Rip Tide. Of the latter, “East Harlem,” sounded best—as good as promised—its New York-based lyrics ringing oddly mature, now suggesting music not as the escape but what will bring the singer’s love interest home; “Santa Fe” offered a strong backbeat more than welcome at this point in the night.
As was the case for van Etten, the clear, firm bass brought out the best in Beirut’s music. However, the last song—that is, the one before the obligatory encore—”Gulag Orkestar” belonged to the horns, four which accompanied Zach Condon on stage. For the encore, however, Condon returned solo. He played “The Penalty” (for the first time in years, he said) and looked sincerely grateful for the audience’s response—their escape, their homecoming or whatever else might have been driving their enjoyment of the night’s show.
Critical bias: Couldn’t watch a bunch of hip twentysomethings dance to a song with a polka rhythm without kinda wanting to write a thesis or a trend piece or something.
Random notebook dump: On second thought, that thesis or trend piece would probably be pretty embarrassing, and I’ll spare you even the notebook dumps that might have provided its starting point.
Sharon van Etten setlist:
Don’t Do It
Tell Me I’m Wrong (?) (with Ben Lanz and Aaron Dessner)
What Will It Take (?) (with Ben Lanz and Aaron Dessner)
Love More (with Ben Lanz and Aaron Dessner)