Grizzly Bear, Beach House, Rozi Plain – Roundhouse

This might be a long post – advanced warning! Sometimes a show lifts itself from the good or the ordinary by dint of a ripping set, the venue, the company, the anticipation, and then again sometimes all of these things come together to make a truly outstanding and memorable occasion. This was one of those.

(apologies for the silly layout of pix – Blogger is being a Bugger)

Fence Collective ‘member’ Rozi Plain was invited to support the frankly wonderful Grizzly Bear at the second of their Roundhouse gigs. Thanks to Rozi and the efforts of the Peeblemeister trading as @binmouth, I got a guest pass at this otherwise long-sold out show – undying gratitude all round.

This was my first time at the Roundhouse somehow and it is indeed impressive and easy to see how it has become a bit of a prestige venue for bands nowadays. A large main space rising with slim cast iron pillars to a domed ceiling high above with a balcony encircling the venue. It was great to slip in and see the hall before it filled with people, that eerie sense of expectation and preparation –the shot above shows the set up for support Beach House.

Rozi Plain and her band were allotted a space in the foyer next to a bar space and a main entry point to the main space for the hall, with a rather pleasing backdrop of a glass wall looking out onto the Camden streets. I know they had problems getting a sound engineer who knew anything about sound, and negotiating with the venue so that they could play at a volume that might be audible to anyone but in the event they sounded just fine, pitched right so as not to be ignored nor to be over-powering. The show was the last night of their short tour that took in the Fence Homegame in Anstruther and the delights of Blackburn (not often you get ‘delights’ and ‘ Blackburn’ paired together is it). @binmouth has a set of pix from the jaunt up on his Flickr page and a couple of clips including Lone Pigeon and Pictish Trail

Rozi put in two sets, one before the main hall opened and a second during change over between Beach House and Grizzly Bear. I have only heard Rozi once before doing a solo set in support of the excellent James Yorkston. In a very intimate space Rozi’s songs carry well but with a bit more brouhaha going on a band really fills the sound out and adds a sense of drive to the songs. The band comprised François covering guitar ( also of Uncle Jelly Fish of whom some video footage from the Fence dates is available and Francois and the Atlas Mountains). Rob acquitting himself very well on skins and the Peeblemeister laying down some Rickenbacker licks (! ) and a chap whose name I don’t know adding some harmony support. Not surprisingly, given that the crowd was not expecting them, the more upbeat songs, including those from her first album Inside Over Here, drew the best response. I hope that they though the sets a success – certainly the comments I heard were very supportive and appreciative, a bit of merch was shifted and the experience will have done them nothing but good leading up to the second Rozi Plain album due later this year (maybe?!).– photos of the bands tour can be found here

The Beach House album Teen Dream is currently one of my favourites so far of 2010 and so the opportunity to see them in support of the mighty GB was too good to be true. The album is a mix of electronica, fuzzy guitar and a slightly trippy overall feel to it. I have to admit that I had always thought the vocal was a chap but Victoria is clearly a lady chap… Beach House comprise Victoria Legrand on keys and vocals, Alex Scally on guitars and live percussion by Daniel J Franz. Laptops and loopy bits allow them to reproduce the full sound of the album and the set was an excellent presentation of a fine album. They have been touring with GB for some time and this seemed like the end of the run for them as well. As is so often the case with a support, the sound although certainly good enough it wasn’t ideal for them but then again nowhere as bad as it might have been. Maybe its performing is such a place, maybe its the anticipation of the main ‘talent’ but the set was long enough, hugely enjoyable but they might be even better in a closer environment.

The Grizzly Bear Vikatimest album is scarcely new being many peoples album of the year 2009, and the band have been touring it now for quite some time – you might expect them to have bored with it by now, but if they have it wasn’t at all apparent from this storming set. This was perhaps one of the finest sets (the finest?) I have heard for a long time. Like so many bands, the songs were stronger, had more attack than they do in recorded mode, and the 18 months or so of touring has honed them to near perfection.

It had taken me a long time to get to grips with this album, but once it had it really took hold. The playing was pinpoint sharp, tight, accurate; oh i don’t know just kind of ‘right’. The live set reminded me perhaps of why I had found the album such a challenge to ‘get’. Live it is much more obvious how complex these songs are, not just the remarkable harmonies but the structures, the lack of adherence to usual song forms. Once you have negotiated the stops and starts, the swoops and dives then of course you somehow feel like an initiate, not dissimilar to absorbing complex old prog rock albums of yore.

At times it felt too much to take in as a whole and I ended up focussing on one band member or the other, trying to absorb what was going on. Chris Taylor the bassist, in addition to playing some stunning bass, also put in treatment laden harmonies, played flute and bass clarinet, clearly demonstrating his versatility, Christopher Bear the drummer is quite staggering and you could watch him alone all evening – the complexity and sensitivity of his playing and a jazz inflected style – brilliant. Of course I would be remiss to ignore Daniel Rossen the singer/songwriter/guitarist and more of him can be found on the excellent Department of Eagles, and GB member number four, singer/songwriter Ed Droste. @binmouth managed to snatch a little of the GB soundcheck but be warned, fab and groovy though the iphone is, it isn’t idea for sound capture….

What more to say, a superlative set, brilliantly executed by a band in peak form. ‘Oh What a Night’ as Frankie Valli and the Four seasons might have said…

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