Stranded in Stereo Presents:
The Depreciation Guild
Cymbals Eat Guitars
Black Diamond Bay
Wednesday, January 28th
105 Eldridge Street, New York NY LES
First it should be noted that for those of you who have never been to Fontana’s in Manhattan, this place is great—go there soon. Granted the place was not exactly packed Wednesday evening, so I do not know the levels of douchebaggery that flow into the joint during peak volume, but I do know the aesthetics are excellent. They have a purple felt pool table…
The venue itself is in the basement. It is a typical Manhattan hole in the ground. The best thing about this set up is that its small size and earth insulated walls ensure ear damage. Fontana’s is blissfully loud. It is dimly lit, giving the room the tenor of an opium den. The bar is positioned in the back, the amber lights drawing attention to the various colored liquids resting on the liquor shelf. It was the perfect place to view The Depreciation Guild in all their shoegazey glory. As of late it has become objectionable to allow oneself to be called “shoegaze,” but there seems to be no argument from the band when people deploy this genre definition—the word appears on their Myspace page no less than 14 times. The thickly constructed wall of melodic noise pulsed from a dark stage. The stage background was lit by a projector emanating Technicolor geometric shapes over the face of the drummer, Anton. Christoph and Kurt were shrouded in pitch, orchestrating their knobs and pedals to direct a deafening wind that blew to the back of the venue. The vocals betray an intense infatuation with 80’s pop melody construction. Their brazil nut colored mod hair styles matched—they looked like a band from an era when constituent musicians would share some attribute, whether it be a hair cut, a t-shirt, or a jacket. Combined with the forceful ambience of guitars, a post-punk back beat, and an accentuation of low-bit synthetic sounds, The Depreciation Guild engaged in an orgy of reverberation and distorted harmonics. Their strong performance confirmed that this wouldn’t be a night of openers and closers, but a menagerie of varied but equally impressive musicians. Rarely is one subjected to such a luxury.
The bands began about a half hour late due to what I can only assume was a lack of audience, but as The Depreciation Guild finished the crowd began to thicken. By the time Cymbals Eat Guitars’ gear was set up, the room was coming alive with chatter and the clinks of whiskey glasses. From the first note, it was determined that Cymbals Eat Guitars was entirely different show than that of the band before. The energy was not subdued, it felt coursing and adrenal. Joe Ferocious’ voice was brain lacerating—a braided arsenal of calm and sensitive croons, lined between what too few people are able to achieve, dopamine inducing screams. And the Hazy Sea exemplifies how the band shifts during their live performance. It is the song that initially hooked me in. Live, the song was twice as loud, twice as energetic, and twice as good. Mr. Ferocious worked his guitar over—tapping and sliding and tweaking the strings into disjointed and caustic solos. It was delicious! The contrast between The Depreciation Guild and Cymbals Eat Guitars cannot be overstated. Ferocious and company’s infatuation with pop doesn’t spend much time contemplating dreamy things; their infatuation is a result of years of underage drinking and late nights listening to Pavement, Pinkerton era Weezer, and Issac Brock. It is an optimism wrought with defiance and the desire to remain unshackled by social expectation. Is this what these people really mean with their music? I don’t know—but it is exactly how their music makes you feel.
Black Diamond Bay headed by ex-Dear member Patrick Krief was yet another turn in this show’s display of style and genre. His voice is refined and his hands play a soulful guitar, fluttering the bluesy Hendrix/Stevie Ray signature across the lower steps of the E and A strings. Krief is a guitar man—he is a songwriter that frames an old and noble tradition into something new. When Black Diamond Bay took stage, the venue had largely become deserted, the once attentive audience forsaking the hole at Fontana’s for some other Manhattan happening. In the end, there only seemed to be the musicians on stage, the bands that came before, my friends, and friends of friends who remained. This was in some ways tragic and in other ways fortunate. Tragic, because the band deserved a full house—fortunate, because we had the house to ourselves and incredible musicians to keep us company. I was afraid that Krief and his mates would not perform as well as they might if the house was at capacity. The room might lack the reciprocal energy required to rock the faces off those who insisted on looking first, hearing first in the front row. I’ll say this, the collection of bands was great and every one of them performed exceptionally, but if there was a crescendo of the night—a highlight that humbled all other moments— and I think the other bands would agree, Krief’s final solo was it. The band didn’t muddle through the night for the first chance to get off the stage; they didn’t offer a half-hearted effort. Krief finished the evening with his white guitar positioned on the ground. While on hands and knees, he pounded with a forceful fist on the fret board like the final desperate moments of CPR, when the chest is pounded with abandon to awaken a dying heart, generating a freight train inside our heads.
All this in an empty venue, in a vacant bar.
Black Diamond Bay continues their tour in support of their latest effort, Calm Awaits, February 5th at The Mercury Lounge. Go…and see for yourself.