Bear Hands Live at Southgate House
On a chilly January night, there is nothing better than a nice show to warm me or the rest of Cincinnati up. This is especially true when a great local act is gracing the stage. I headed to the Southgate House on Monday night to catch an interesting double bill of hometown indie darlings Pomegranates and one of the seemingly thousands of buzz bands from Brooklyn, Bear Hands.
First on stage was Bear Hands, a band that has been receiving a lot of positive press surrounding their performances at last year's CMJ Festival in New York. They are also a bit of a buzz band in the UK right now, so I was interested to see and hear what these Brooklynites brought to the floor. I was thoroughly impressed by the band's melding of styles. The more than competent rhythm section of Val Lope (bass) and TJ Orscher (drums) laid a foundation of dancy grooves that got the small crowd moving. Think LCD Soundsystem basslines meet Joy Division drumming. Lead vocalist Dylan Rau sounds like an odd mixture of Isaac Brock and Spencer Krug on record, and carries a high amount of energy to his guttural yelps live. Coupled with his and guitarist Ted Feldman's psychedelic noodlings, Bear Hands ran through what seemed like every song from their small catalog.
Rau is the obvious focal point of the band, looking like a 19 year old version of Jim James and acting the part of a youngster as well. He was obviously drunk, and shouting some rather obscene language at his bandmates. But that unpredictability just added to the mystique of the band and definitely did not take away from their exciting musical output. All told, a great set from a promising young band.
The same, however, cannot be said of the headliner of the night, Pomegranates. This was supposed to be a grand homecoming for the quartet, but due to circumstances beyond their control, the band just seemed a little flat. One of their members, prior to the show, was struck by a car while walking the streets of Newport. The remaining three members of the band assured the audience that their mate was okay, but clearly unable to make the show. And, due in no small part to this, the band was really unable to recover. They certainly gave a phenomenal effort, playing through an abbreviated set as a trio, but it is really unfair to critique a band not at 100%, both figuratively and literally.
Bear Hands seemed poised to turn heads, especially on their upcoming UK tour and subsequent shows at South By Southwest. And Pomegranates will undoubtedly be back to full force soon as we hope for a speedy recovery for them. The bands were at opposite ends of the spectrum Monday night, but expect to hear a lot from both of them in 2009 and beyond.