Better than: Cinderella
“It feels amazing to be here tonight,” the Antlers’ Peter Silberman announced to a packed Terminal 5 on Friday night. “This is such a well-put-together event.” It felt pretty amazing for me, too, since up until an hour previously I didn’t think I was going to get on the press list for the super sold-out Hurricane Sandy benefit, 4 Artists/1 Cause. But at the final hour, the fairy godpublicist granted me one ticket to the indie antithesis to Tuesday’s epic 12/12/12 concert, with Cults, The Antlers, Grizzly Bear, and Sleigh Bells instead of Bruce, the Stones, Paulvana, and Alicia Keys. Even though I sped uptown as fast as I could in my yellow pumpkin, forced to listen to the Tajikistani driver who said American women just get married so they could get divorced, get alimony, and get Botox, I knew I would probably miss the first act.
– Sleigh Bells’ Beyoncé Cover Could Stand To Get A Little More Bodied
– Q&A: The Antlers’ Peter Silberman On Working Out Demons, Playing More Guitar, And His Favorite Dogs
– Live: Grizzly Bear Shimmers at Radio City Music Hall
Sure enough, I arrived after opener Cults but caught the Antlers in time to hear Silberman’s falsetto coos on “Hounds,” which sailed like the voice of a hipster angel above the three floors of chattering crowds drinking $13 vodka Red Bulls. But hating on Terminal 5 is like talking about the weather (plus, as mentioned before, all the proceeds were going to charity), so I tried thinking about the venue’s club-like layout and impersonality as a stand-in for the hospital Silberman sang about on Hospice‘s “Epilogue”. One of the saddest of Antlers’ already devastating catalogue, on record it’s just Silberman singing with an acoustic guitar, coming to terms with the fact someone he loves has just died; with the rest of the band onstage, it exploded at the last minute into a cacophony of wrenched guitars that finally drowned out the background noise. Then their set ended, DJ Roofeo put on “Niggas in Paris”, and the guy next to me started rapping, “I hope I don’t have to go outside/ It’s fucking cold outside/ Fuck that shit.”
Roofeo continued to rifle through your standard “throw your hands in the ay-er” club bangers like TNGHT, Kendrick Lamar, G.O.O.D. Music, and, of course, “Killing Me Softly”. His interstitial set leading up to Grizzly Bear got more of the crowd moving than Andrew Wyatt’s more technically adept set prior to Sleigh Bells, which saw the Miike Snow frontman actually using the digital two-turntable Serato at his disposal. He segued seamlessly between slinky, sexy house sleepers like Bucuresti’s “Blacknuzz” and Cristian S’ “The Power of Now,” neither of which I had heard before he put them on. In objective retrospect, maybe neither disc jockey’s approach was entirely appropriate for this event. At least they helped pass the time in different ways watching each band’s increasingly complicated setup get built and torn down.
Benefits are always laced with the well-meaning but unavoidably uncomfortable relationship between those enjoying themselves in attendance and the suffering beneficiaries–in simpler terms, I suppose, the haves and the have-nots–which the artists seemed to try to acknowledge as much as possible. Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste was the first to mention the events of Friday morning. “Despite today’s tragic news, there’s still so much positive energy in here and I hope we can keep doing events like this in the future.”
Even though I had just seen them less than a week before, the grandiose synths on songs like Shields‘ “Yet Again” and “Sleeping Ute” still resonated within me and the commodious space. I noticed things I hadn’t before, like the “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” guitar line on “A Simple Answer” and the quavering edge, even more knife-like in person, to Daniel Rossen’s wail. Grizzly Bear kept the tone from getting too ethereal for its own good, though, with a story about how new keyboardist Aaron Arntz got the shit beat out of him by a bouncer after he stage-dove to “While You Wait For the Others”.
After seeing approximately 30 Marshalls stacked on top of each other and a giant American flag behind Sleigh Bells when they performed at this year’s SXSW, it was a little bit of a letdown to see a piddling half that and no flag on Friday night. But I shouldn’t have worried. They came onstage to the Black Sabbath-shredding call-to-arms “Demons,” matching Alexis Krauss’ prance-banging shrieks to flashing lights so bright they brought tears to my eyes. Whenever Sleigh Bells take the stage, they have more fun, dance better, and rock tie-dyed denim cutoffs with tights and Keds better than you ever will.
Over the course of their two-album career, Krauss has polished her Marilyn Monroe stage banter voice to silky glow. When some people in the audience passed her an American flag spray-painted with “TRUE SHRED,” she cooed to the stage hand, “Hey Ryan, can we put this up somewhere?” It hung behind her until the speakers thumping behind “Kids” blew it over with sheer force of the noise. During “Comeback Kid,” some guys in the audience started what I have in my notes as the “lamest mosh pit I’ve ever seen.” I tried to remember it was the thought that counts as two dudes waltzed across a gaping, empty hole in the middle of the audience. The only thing that rocked me in not entirely the right way was Krauss dedicating “Born to Lose” to the Sandy victims they were helping. Even though her dedication was genuine, it hit a little too close to the idea of people losing everything in the storm.
Other than that, Sleigh Bells were the perfect closer for the evening. They captured the raw anger and disbelief at Hurricane Sandy’s devastating consequences; yet buried within all the heavy, delayed layers lurked a wild euphoria at the power of music–especially so shortly after 12/12/12–to help. And the $300,000 they raised didn’t hurt, either.
Overheard: “How do you feel about a weirdo Icelandic band?” “Bon Iver?” “No, they sing in a completely made-up language. They’re called Sigur Ros. But they’re amazing!” “Sorry, I don’t want to go see a band that sings a made-up Icelandic language for my 30th birthday.”
Random Notebook Dump: Sean Tillmann cleans up nice. I still miss the beer belly-revealing toga and child-molester ‘stache, though.
Critical Bias: I’m predisposed to approve of anything Andrew Wyatt does.
Grizzly Bear Setlist:
Speak In Rounds
A Simple Answer
While You Wait For the Others
Sun In Your Eyes
Sleigh Bells Setlist:
Crown on the Ground
True Shred Guitar
End Of the Line
Born to Lose
Never Say Die