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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

October 17, 2009 at 1:30 PM

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Concert review: Grizzly Bear at The Moore

Posted by Andrew Matson

grizz 008.jpg

Videos of the songs "Two Weeks" and "Knife" after the jump.

A soggy, spiritual feeling overtook The Moore during Brooklyn avant pop quartet Grizzly Bear's concert Friday, Oct. 16th. The sensation ebbed and flowed for two hours.

During "Deep Blue Sea," a slow requiem/reverie about a family drowning in the ocean, the packed house turned off its oxygen and sunk with Grizzly Bear.

Daniel Rossen sang successive verses about a mother, brother, and father meeting watery ends, his soft tenor voice floating over his own folky guitar finger-picking. Wrapped up in his band-mates' three-part ghost-choir vocals and anchored by long notes from a bass clarinet, it was the quietest song of the night. The effect was hypnotic in a way no other band inspires, equally comforting and sad—the sweet vocal harmonies and downbeat folk lilt went both ways. The audience followed Rossen deeper with each lyrical death.

People shook their heads in disbelief during "Deep Blue Sea" because the music was so beautiful, and then shook their heads again after the song was finished, but more quickly, trying to re-enter reality.

Chris Taylor, bass player, producer, and woodwinds/electronics/vocals utility man, dedicated the song to Seattle. He's from here, and said his first girlfriend was in the crowd. It seemed an appropriate song to dedicate. Outside, it was dark and raining hard.

Most of Grizzly Bear's set didn't sound like "Deep Blue Sea." Songs were drawn from the "Yellow House" (2006) and "Veckatimest" (2009) albums, and the EP "Friend" (2008), and the concert was two hours of elegantly composed guitar "rock"—the band's un-danceable "rock" requires quotation marks, similar to local band Fleet Foxes'. All four members played in a line, with nobody standing behind anybody else. Rossen and Ed Droste, wonderfully complimentary singers (both tenors) and songwriters, stood in the middle and were the focus.

Where Rossen's voice was heathery, Droste's was sinewy, fading in and out of the mix loudly but pleasingly so. When he backed up Rossen, Droste's falsetto was a dead ringer for Radiohead singer Thom Yorke. Droste's songs incorporated vocal rounds, autoharp, and other various renaissance fair-isms. Rossen's were based around jerky rhythms and pizzicato guitar plucks, and often built to Radiohead-ish space-rock climaxes (the two bands have toured together and are fans of each other).

Chris Taylor and drummer Christopher Bear sang on every song, too, but really could have been their own band. Bear's drumming was crisp and nuanced, like a jazz player's, and mixed surprisingly prominently, as if he were drumming for a hiphop group. The bass was way out front, too, often lightly distorted and mostly doing advanced melody work instead of just keeping time or grounding chords.

Taylor put down his bass several times to do other stuff, most of which looked like traditional music-making but was somehow mitigated by electronics. When he concentrated on singing during the glacially paced doo-wop song "Knife," his voice entered the air in flickering bubbles, like the microphone was a snorkel. When he got low to the ground and played the flute, it sounded like dolphins quacking.

The band members didn't talk much during the concert, but seemed excited in their low-key ways to be in Seattle, recalling how much fun they had when they played the Pacific Science Center's Laser Dome in 2005, wondering if anyone at The Moore had caught the first Seattle Grizzly Bear performance years ago at dingy punk club The Funhouse. About five people raised their hands.

Grizzly Bear got a standing ovation, and for an encore played its cover of The Crystals' 1962 song "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)," a disturbing, gorgeous pop song about domestic violence.


"Two Weeks"

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