Live: The Antlers And Unknown Mortal Orchestra Battle The Open Bar


The Antlers w/ Unknown Mortal Orchestra
The Liberty Room of The Ace Hotel
Friday, August 5

Better than: Perusing the photo galleries the Monday after.

The Antlers’ Friday-night gig at the Ace Hotel had all the makings of one of those exclusive New York City shows that you hear about after the fact on blogs. The band announced the show on Twitter and gave away tickets on; the sponsors had arranged for a pop-up bike shop outside, an open bar, and popsicles that were laced with one of the night’s freely flowing liquors. The Antlers promised an intimate evening, and in the video above you can get a sense of just how close to the band the crowd was; the stage was barely a foot off the dance floor, and the taller people in attendance stand at eye level with the performers.

But an open bar and a crowd full of people there to see, be seen, and show up in after-the-fact photos can have their downsides, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra deserved better than taking the brunt of them. The band played all but one of the songs from their self-titled Fat Possum debut and performed with the gusto of a band that had something to prove, but the crowd was unresponsive; throughout their set, the lack of applause between songs was irritatingly counterbalanced by the audible chatter during them. It only took two songs for lead singer Ruban Neilson to remind the audience of show etiquette, i.e., the idea that one should clap when the band one is watching takes a between-song breather. UMO sounds like a sunwashed smear of Talking Heads, Women, and Television, and while they tend to bury their pop sensibilities in a cloud of reverb the effect is never used as a crutch.

The Antlers followed with a tight set of songs from Burst Apart (Frenchkiss). Even those who were distracted by the free drinks grooved a little at the climactic fuzz of “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out”; lead singer Peter Silberman demonstrated his impressive vocal range all evening, but nothing matched the moment when he hit the incredibly high note at the end of “I Don’t Want Love.” In the same way that the Antlers developed the songs from their previous album Hospice on the road, the songs on Burst Apart sounds better and better every time I see them performed live.

Critical bias: This is my third time seeing The Antlers perform in support of Burst Apart, which came out in May.

Overheard: “Who’s playing again?”

Random notebook dump: Who got invited to this thing?

UMO set list:
Little Blue House
Thought Ballune
Strangers Are Strange
Ffunny Ffriends
Nerve Damage!
Jello and Juggernauts
Boy Witch
How Can U Luv Me

The Antlers set list:
No Widows
I Don’t Want Love
French Exit
Rolled Together
Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out
Putting The Dog To Sleep