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It was perhaps the most important show of Here We Go Magic’s young career – headlining its hometown’s Music Hall of Williamsburg on the release date of critically lauded sophomore album, Pigeons.

The night began with Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, a former Oregonian who in recent years was taken under the wing of TV On the Radio’s Kyp Malone and members of Grizzly Bear. A last-minute addition to the bill, Robinson strolled out alone, holding several sheets of paper, to find a nearly nonexistent crowd. Though he began with strums of an electric guitar, the majority of the set found MBAR pounding chords on an outdated keyboard, with equally outdated pre-programmed drumbeats as his only backing track. The decision was a curious one, especially considering that his recorded work doesn’t utilize that style; with all of his friends in the neighborhood, one would think it would’ve been possible to round up a backing band for the evening. Regardless, Robinson’s soulful croon, which most notably brings to mind Bon Iver, kept the expanding crowd captivated throughout each repetitive and often lengthy song, while effectively killing any attention during the prolonged awkward breaks, in which he admitted he was “working out some things.” The crowd gave the understandably nervous MBAR (donning a “Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson Is Dead” shirt) the benefit of the doubt, and the last song, in which he simultaneously played the keyboard and hammered notes on the electric guitar, was easily his most impressive and seemed to leave a pleasant taste in everyone’s mouth.

Next came the War On Drugs, the Philadelphia noise-folk trio who are two years removed from their last release, the underappreciated Wagonwheel Blues. Despite some apparent dicking around over the last year, work on their (“fuckin’ epic,”) double-LP follow-up is nearing completion, according to their website. Still, the band stuck to mainly Wagonwheel tunes, beginning their set with their usual cavalcade of creeping feedback, droning synthesizers, punk-ish bass noodling and pounding drums. Technical issues plagued early songs like “Buenos Aires Beach,” “Taking the Farm,” and a confusingly instrumental but later-reprised take on “A Needle in the Eye #16,” resulting in some missed cues and sloppy, awkward endings. After plugging Wagonwheel for the billionth time (“Yep, we’re still pushing the same one…”), the band tried out a new one that ended up being the tightest and liveliest of the night, probably evidence of how much time they’ve been spending in their Philadelphia studio recently. The band as a whole was loose, sloppy and seemingly unprepared; the set was not exactly the ray of hope or glimpse of the future that fans of the band would’ve likely wanted.

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After a half hour of stage cleaning, arranging and more technical difficulties, the five members of Here We Go Magic took the stage around 11:30pm to perform the Pigeons songs in front of an anxious and appreciative crowd. Starting out with a jammy intro infinitely tighter and more focused than The War On Drugs’ similar intros, the band launched into “Hibernation,” bringing its synth-y bass line and layered but minimalist guitars to life. Similarly, the band stripped “Moon” of its psychedelia, making it a funky, polyrhythmic prog-romp featuring vocals building on one another throughout. Luke Temple really meant it when he optimistically proclaimed, “We’re gonna do a good job,” near the beginning of the set; the way he and his bandmates decided to approach these songs in a live setting couldn’t have been more impressive and mind-bogglingly tasteful, and it seemed as if they couldn’t of been having a better time playing them. First single “Collector” lit the crowd (including the buoyant MBAR, who could be seen dancing up a storm near the front) on fire and it only quietly cooled down from there.

The band invited two of their acquaintances in White Rabbits onstage to liven up songs from its self-titled debut, using timpani, tambourines and other percussion to give tunes like “Only Pieces” and “Fangela” some explosive peaks and valleys. The latter took the crowd into space and back with intense strobe lights and smoke being put to use more than the rest of the night’s songs combined, leading into a mellow “Everything’s Big” encore to calm everyone down before heading for the door. Despite a mildly unprepared and oftentimes erratic line-up, the members of Here We Go Magic succeeded in conveying Pigeons’ intricacies in a live setting, and getting the audience quite excited about it – and that’s a very positive harbinger for the band as it moves on to bigger stages and heightened expectations.

[Photos: Christopher L. Combs and Shawn Robbins]

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