Sorry not sorry: I'll confess outright to being a huge Real Estate fan. Their previous album, Days, easily cinched the number one spot on my Top Albums of 2011 list. So, understandably, I've been excited for the follow-up, Atlas, which came out earlier this year on Domino Records, and the resulting tour. Here's how the Seattle date went:
Opening the show was Pill Wonder, a project of Seattle's own William Murdoch, who just so happens to have been in a band called The Barnacles with Real Estate frontman Martin Courtney, back in their college days.Seated in front of keyboards, both musical and computer, Murdoch created strange electro-pop, sort-of in the vein of that '80s Herbie Hancock song "Rockit." A music blog described his music as "outsider art," which I agree with wholeheartedly -- shit was weird, but in a compelling way. The audience seemed to be full of friends and/or family that enthusiastically cheered him on as he played and grinned bashfully. It was pretty adorable.
Up next after that was Vancouver band, The Shilohs. I found myself wondering, are these guys old or young? I mean, sure, one of the guitarist/vocalists had a bowl haircut... but was it hiding a recessed hairline? 'Cause the thing is, they sounded like "Dad Rock." In a good way. You could see how they made a good fit with the folky sounds of Real Estate, but The Shilohs lean more heavily towards an older sound, with influences of Big Star, The Kinks, The Byrds... y'know, stuff my Dad likes. Well, I later looked 'em up online, and turns out they're in their 20s! I also discovered they released a 7" single in 2012 on the label New Images, ran by Real Estate's own Matt Mondanile! So, there ya go.
The big portrait of Bob Marley was waiting for the boys when they took the stage promptly on time. No shocker, most of the set list focused on the new album, but they dipped back into Days for a few tracks, like the single "It's Real," which had the audience singing along to the "Oh-whoa-oh" refrain in the chorus, much to the band's delight. Much to my delight, the band dug back even further into their catalog for a couple of songs from their 2009 Woodsist debut, "Beach Comber" and the very Yo-La-Tengo-esque "Suburban Beverage," which bassist Alex Bleeker noted they don't play live very often. (They should!)
When not singing, Courtney remained quiet. He's the kinda guy where you can't tell if he's tired, bored, or just deep in thought. Let's hope deep in thought. He had very fancy socks and shoes on. Such a contrast from the grungier days of Real Estate.
Guitarist Mondanile is a delight to watch: his guitar leads are so intricate and pretty, and every so often he just breaks into a smile to himself, for seemingly no reason. And, I have to confess, it's kinda dreamy how he can quickly push up his eyeglasses on the bridge of his nose and not miss a guitar lick. He said to the audience that this has been his favorite show of the tour so far. I made a mental note to check and see how many days they'd been on tour for him to say that -- if it was the first night of tour, then touché, Monsieur Mondanile.
Bleeker seems to have stepped into the role of on-stage band spokesman, shouting out to his brother, a Seattle-resident, who was somewhere in the audience, and telling the audience how good-looking we are. Again, if this was the beginning of the tour, he might have some lowered expectations.
By the end of the show, I actually felt a little bit more in love with Atlas than I had before. If I'm being honest, I didn't have that immediate love-at-first-listen reaction to it like I did with Days. Maybe Atlas is more like that friend you hang out with, and then one day you lock eyes over a piece of pizza and realize, oh crap, all this time, you've been in love. But, anyway, for their encore, the band closed out with a cover of The Nerves' 1976 b-side "Paper Dolls" -- WHAAT? Yup, it's love.
Every year, Seattle sends a multitude of great artists down to Austin this week to showcase how our great city continues push the independent music scene forward in our own unique way. Of course, there is no shortage of Seattle bands at SXSW this year. But it was a special treat for us to get to ...
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