It’s easy to admire young bands, just like it’s easy to admire a baby. In a newborn there is that tabula rasa — basic instincts unfettered by the world and the promise of great potential. Also, they are mad cute. Little babies and debut bands are both attention magnets, can be alternately angels and devils, and when grouped together, can be hard to tell apart. But watching Twin Shadow and Glasser feels like ogling a royal infant, born with a crown on its head into the regal house of buzz and hype and ‘BNM’. The general excitement surrounding newborns is now coupled with some intangible expectation that the poor kid has no control over and may only be slightly aware of. But under the crown and the position is a band who truly deserves it. In this case, more so Twin Shadow than Glasser, but both bands impressed a healthy crowd at Lincoln Hall in Chicago this weekend.
Against a packed house, Twin Shadow front man and progenitor George Lewis Jr. assumed the stage with his wood-grain telecaster strapped around his body. He is a black Morrisey, a glo-fi Kings of Convenience, a more dower Prince — he’s an amalgam of an array of music hanging in the ether for just about anyone to grab these days. But it’s not what he draws from that’s most interesting, it’s what he produces. Twin Shadow’s music is transformative. The current status quo of style, mood, rhythm, and melody was beguiled by Twin Shadow’s music, and I apologize for that stupid rhetoric but its true and it’s what came out.
The band proved without a doubt they have power to transform from a bedroom project to a dance-inciting band. With a little help from his friends on bass, synth, and drums, George Lewis Jr. set the bar high off the bat with an extended “Shooting Holes In The Moon”, tying on an impressive guitar solo — a great way to flirt with this reviewer. Lewis takes a page out of Matt Berniger’s book from The National: croon on record, rock at the show. In “Slow”, his voice became serrated as he sang those soon-to-be seminal lyrics of the chorus, “I don’t wanna, be/believe in love.”
The three auxilary members lent terrific backup vocals and played tight to keep the crowd’s heads nodding throughout the set. The prescience in me could see Twin Shadow playing a late spot at Glastonbury, the way Pulp or Depeche Mode might do. I see this because the band is fully committed to its sound, which is neither pastiche nor vogue — just genuine and rife with potential.
During their set, Lewis asked the crowd if a girl could come up and dance on stage. The reviews from the crowd were mixed, but she came up anyway and danced anyway during “Castles In The Sun.” It’s this kind of stunt that makes Twin Shadow young, and endearing, and spontaneous, and allowed them to put on, without a doubt, one of the best shows of 2010, and the best new band I’ve seen this year.
It was unfortunate that Glasser had to follow this. The energy in the room was at its peak and Glasser front lady and proginator Cameron Mesirow had to simply dovetail Twin Shadow to keep the crowd’s interest piqued. This did not happen/was impossible. Lacking in Glasser’s set was the specificity that shined with Twin Shadow. I will say this: Glasser’s bass sounded fresh at Lincoln Hall. My socks were vibrating. However this wasn’t enough to keep the crowd from losing interest and filtering out.
Set opener “Apply” is easily one of Glasser’s best songs, but it dissipated into the crowd. The appeal of her music didn’t reach across the aisle as well as Twin Shadow did, but in and of itself, Glasser is fascinating. She and her band are chameleons onstage, producing anything from dirty-south house beats to island/jungle techno to 90s industrial to drag to stark a cappella performances. All of these forms came through in the first 20 minutes or so, and Mesirow’s beautiful voice swirled around the venue caked in reverb, mixed poorly with her band. It was unclear what Glasser was all about, and Mesirow’s meek and mild stage demeanor wasn’t helping to ground or clarify their performance.
But once she sang with just her and her bass player, the crowd hushed and listened. Finally I heard who the voice behind Glasser was. This, and her a cappella encore, were arresting and honest pieces that gave credence to her more avant compositions a day late and a dollar short. But she and her band made the best of what they had, and for that, they succeeded. Like Twin Shadow’s Forget, Glasser’s debut LP Ring is a wonderful showcase of their potential, but Glasser’s live show lacked proper sequencing both in songs and billing. Too bad, because Mesirow’s voice needs to be heard.
Photography by Meghan Brosnan.
Gallery by Meghan Brosnan