see the way

i was planning to go to one more night of the pianos october residency of other passengers, but i hadn't planned on writing anything about it. as it turned out, all the bands and the resulting pictures were even better than i thought they'd be.

the opening slot was taken by my best fiend, who played a great night at tonic a few months ago, and also did well on a wednesday at scenic put on by loveless music group last month. fortunately, the show was pushed back from the original start time of 7:30. when i went into the room it was otherwise empty; a few people trickled in slowly. but shortly after the band took the stage, the place seemed pretty full for a cold and rainy tuesday night.

they played what may have been pretty much the same set as before, but they get exponentially better each time i see them. the two-chord vamping roots of their music seemed a bit more apparent this time (as opposed to the emphasis on the noisy electronic overlays before). however, their lead singer has really started letting go in his performance, especially in song sections where he's unencumbered by an instrument. the other guitarist/keyboardist also showed new strengths in feedback manipulation. the bassist and drummer were solid as usual, although i always wish the former would turn up just a bit more or perhaps get a compressor, since half his notes tend to get lost in the mix instead of punching through - he's definitely worth hearing.

i had never heard of skeleton and the girl-faced boys before i checked the night's lineup, but i should have, as much time as i've been spending at the ghostly international site lately. while the title track from their album git is all fractured miniature electro-funk, the live band is anything but. bandleader matt mehlan (formerly known simply as "skeletons" for his solo project) sings with a calm and lilting tenor that somehow brought to mind kevin drew of broken social scene. he's also one of three guitarists in the band, which at times seemed unnecessary. however, his songs and voice were good. in addition, the drummer was excellent, whether keeping a steady beat or breaking into subtle polyrhythmic workouts. also of note was the bassist, who seemed to be playing constantly in an unusually high register for a bass ( peter hook notwithstanding). even more exciting was that on the first and last songs, he left the bass alone and fiddled with a jacket he wore that was decorated with what appeared to be giant 3D dominoes. they turned out to be knobs for a custom-made mini synthesizer, which he constantly tweaked as the band played along. at times, the combined effect of mehlan's appearance and the sometimes rhythmically complex music that took strange unexpected turns made me think of richard d. james (sans evil grin) fronting an indie rock/freak-folk band. that may not be incredibly accurate, but the point is, they were much more enjoyable than i thought they'd be, and i look forward to them coming through nyc again.

the lighting had been good so far, but once berkoy started up her projector things took on a wonderfully murky atmosphere. her visuals have now almost become a sixth instrument in the band, the backgrounds affecting the overall tone of the performance. she shifts from stark whites to grey clouds, from amorphous bubble-like shapes to hard vertical lines, adding to the tension of the music.

not that other passengers rely on the visuals to make up for any deficiency. the band were clearly anticipated, as the room filled up well before they began. this was not a "see and be seen on the scene" show, all heads were pointed at the stage. playing no material whatsoever from last year's EP, and with no easy three-minute singalongs, they still had people enraptured with their brand of dark indie/prog-rock. the songs have no obvious verses or choruses, arrangements build up and break down, and there is occasional time-signature trickery. but these are not lyrically pompous, overly-long wankfests with faux-classical pretensions. this is music with heart and soul, as evidenced by the band's increasing onstage intensity. putting everything they have into each show is obviously working out for them; they'll be opening for the emotionally raw xiu xiu next week (tickets available to NYU students only until day of show).

the title of this post is a song by the aformentioned skeleton and the girl-faced boys.