Film was simply not enough to celebrate the opening night party of the 2010 edition of the Zero Film Festival, a festival dedicated to the works of self-financed filmmakers. What better way to ring in the festival than with three bands, free alcohol (with a suggested donation of $3), and an after-hours DJ dance party? After all, a party is not much of one without music and booze.
The first act of the night was current buzz band Oberhofer, fresh off a series of well-received CMJ gigs. Fronted by recent New York transplant Brad Oberhofer, the band gave an energetic performance of raucous dual-guitar pop with unconventional percussions and yelpy vocals that bring to mind The Unicorns or a synth-free MGMT. Oberhofer had the ideal balance of straight-forward fun and quirkiness that make them a contender for the role of 2011s next big thing.
Originally hailing from Australia, Sherlocks Daughter followed Oberhofer with a set of lush electro-pop. Unfortunately, the tranquil vocals of frontwoman Tanya Horo often got lost in the mix, but this phenomenon is more likely attributable to warehouses not having been built with concert sound in mind than to any fault of the band. Vocal issues aside, Sherlocks Daughter crafted compelling soundscapes punctuated by tribal percussion.
Headlining the nights festivities were Brooklyn dream poppers Asobi Seksu. Earlier this year, Asobi Seksu toured in support of their acoustic album Rewolf, which went even further than their third album Hush in stripping away the reverb from their self-titled debut and Citrus to reveal how powerful their melodies really are. If their headlining set at the opening night of the Zero Film Festival was any indication, Asobi Seksu is ready to rock again.
Opening with Citrus standout Strawberries, Asobi Seksu unleashed a wave of hooks, intense rhythms, and James Hannas swirling guitar held together by a dulcet voice that defies any language barriers. Nobody seemed to mind that the lyrics inspired by delusions from a bad hummus-induced bout of food poisoning were in Japanese, as were New Years and Red Sea. Perhaps it helped that the sounds of the Japanese language seemed to give Yuki Chikudates ethereal vocals an additional, subtle rhythmic layer not found in English. Asobi Seksus selection of older material focused almost entirely on Citrus, with In the Sky being the only song from Hush to surface, and its series of mini-crescendos built up to a frenzied finale, complete with seizure-inducing strobe lights. The clear audience favorite of the night was the transcendent Thursday, a bittersweet ode to lost love that is the epitome of exquisite, dreamy pop at its finest.
Testing new material is always a risky venture, especially at an event where a significant portion of the crowd is there for reasons other than fandom (in this case, a film festival), but Asobi Seksu isnt the kind of band to take the easy way out. Out of the 10 songs performed, four were from their upcoming Fluorescence, including the recently released blistering new single Trails, which began with dissonant layers of guitar noise and thrilled with its relentlessly pounding drums and Chikudates soaring soprano. My Baby began with an almost tropical feel and shimmered along serenely until suddenly exploding into a bewildering storm of rhythmic chaos. Apparently Asobi Seksu brought back the noise in a big way for Fluorescence.
It is unfortunate that the shoegaze label is so often attributed to Asobi Seksu, because at Nut Roaster Studios the band proved the label to be almost a misnomer. Sure, their songs often share that characteristic reverb and feedback, and they even encored with a cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain, but Asobi Seksus brand of noise is more sweet than sinister and their pop sensibilities transform it into something fresh and infectious. In a live setting, Asobi Seksu performs with a level of energy and charisma thats not found in your average shoegaze band.
In the Sky
Here She Comes
Never Understand (The Jesus and Mary Chain cover)