Last Night: Grizzly Bear and Here We Go Magic at the Fillmore

Categories: Last Night
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Peter Arensdorf

Grizzly Bear and Here We Go Magic
June 21, 2009
The Fillmore
Better Than:
Seeing a unicorn.

Instead of simply putting on a phenomenal show, Grizzly Bear
-- four sirens disguised as scruffy guys sporting white T's and tight pants -- put on a unique sensory experience that left the beholder entranced. In fact, beholders of last night's show were left so entranced that they stuck around long after the band had finished its set, hundreds of eyes glued awestruck to the stage.

But Grizzly Bear had the crowd at "hello," selling-out the Fillmore and filling up the balconies in addition to the floor. By the end of their opening song, the starry-eyed crowd -- mostly 20 and 30 somethings who had the foresight to buy their tickets ahead of time -- was putty in the group's hands. Band members asked that the audience only clap and snap occasionally, but they would have committed crimes if so directed. Few dared sing along during the set, and fewer still tried to dance--they were focusing intently on the creative arrangements involved in each song. Most were content to wear dopey smiles and bob up and down, eyes never leaving the four musicians lined up like pawns at the front of the stage.
But to really enjoy Grizzly Bear's intricacies requires a little focus. The group's angelic voices intertwined live in dreamy harmonies as the musicians added dissonance, a feature feature that shined from the stage even more than it does in their studio sound. 

Grizzly Bear's latest album, Veckatimest, proves that the group knows how to craft a unique listening experience. That singular approach comes in part from the wide range of instruments involved in the songs, a list that includes auto-harp, clarinet, bassoon, and flute. But what doesn't come across on CD is that all four band members sound like they were raised by a choir. It's not everyday that you hear four talented instrumentalists who also use their voices as instruments.

This is a band that likes to hit every note just right. Sure, they had their experimental moments -- even verging on psychedelic at times -- but it was a very controlled and well-practiced kind of experimentation, down to the volume of the notes. In a dance almost as choreographed as the light-show (synched to fit the swells and bursts of each song), band members would sway closer or further from their mikes, individually adjusting their reverb effects.
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Peter Arensdorf


If tonight's show is anything like last night's, the crowd is in for their money's worth and more. Even the opener, another Brooklyn-based band called Here We Go Magic, struck the audience silent at times with its dreamy, reverb-rich melodies punctuated by rolling drums and an all out head-bang-worthy crescendo at the end. The lead singer/guitarist was working so hard on stage that anyone in the front row risked getting doused by a shower of sweat. But if the smiles plastered to their faces were any indication, the fans were too intent on listening to care.

Critic's Notebook

Mid-set, Grizzly Bear gave a shout-out to Dolores Park and all of the smiling people in San Francisco, saying that yesterday must have been one of the "best days" in the city. We love that East Coasters are so easy to impress.

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