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  • Grizzly Bear at Wordless Music Series, NYC

    Mon, 05 Nov 2007 11:33:39

    Grizzly Bear at Wordless Music Series, NYC - Grizzly Bear end their lengthy tour with a quiet flourish

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    Grizzly Bear has been on the road for the better part of a year and a half, supporting 2006's layered, avant-folk masterpiece, Yellow House, in every corner of the globe. Saturday night, the Brooklyn-based quartet's epic trek finally came to a close in a massive church-like room at the Society for Ethical Culture, just off Manhattan's Central Park. The dramatic, high-ceiling rotunda was the perfect setting for Ed Droste's silken voice, the instrument used to best effect throughout the night.

    Michael Harrison, who preceded the Griz, benefited equally from the divine acoustics of the space. Playing selections from Revelations on his own harmonically tuned piano, the La Monte Young champion created mesmerizing clouds of tone built from cascades of upper and lower register phrases. The tuning didn't allow for completed musical thoughts, lacking any notes willing to resolve the big sonic washes Harrison spent an hour creating. The effect was initially confounding, but after expectations of convention had been surrendered, the dizzying tangles of tone began to make their own sort of sense. Even after the final piano pound and Harrison's gracious bow, the music seemed to linger in the room, refusing to disappear until Droste and company were set up.

    In front of the same homemade banner from the cover of the recently-released Friend EP, Grizzly Bear pawed their way through a set that drew heavily from the short-player. Opening with the full-band, electrified re-workings of "Alligator" and "Little Brother," the set showcased a group entirely confident in their ability to re-create painstakingly complicated studio pieces. Throughout the night, the made-over tracks cherry picked all of the original's strongest elements, and bolstered the weaker sections. The re-vamped "Shift" turned its back on the original's bedroom plod, making for a peppier, less eerie number. But the revered whistles were even more haunting set against the newfound bounce. "On a Neck, On a Spit" forewent the ramshackle quality of the studio take in favor of a big, Spector-esque wall of sound—a new approach that was even more apparent during the band's encore, when they tip-toed through a version of The Crystals' "He Hit Me," also found on Friend.

    But the highlight of the night came moments before, after Grizzly Bear had completed a dry run of an all new track and made their way to the dressing room. Amidst a massive standing O, guitarist Daniel Rossen and drummer Christopher Bear stalked onto the stage and performed a cover song that "most of you probably know." With Rossen stangle-picking his guitar, and Bear lightly padding the organ beside his kit, the bright strains of "Graceland" filled the room. "I'm going to Graceland," sang Rossen, almost as a sigh of relief. And just like that, after a year and a half, the band could finally hibernate.

    —Robbie Mackey
    11.05.07



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