Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Bern & the Brights at Spikehill, Brooklyn NY 7/18/09

An auspicious Brooklyn show by one of the finest, most intelligent and original exports from the impressively fertile music scene scattered around Montclair, New Jersey. This show was yet further proof that the best new rock music out there bears absolutely no resemblance to anything coming out of Williamsburg. Bern & the Brights’ sound is raw, plaintive and lush in an artsy vein somewhat evocative of New York cello rockers Pearl & the Beard. They don’t waste notes, they vary their tempos and their two women singers deliver a potent emotional impact: this band does not sound like they go gently into their parents’ luxury condo at the end of the night. Bandleader/Telecaster player Bernadette Malavarca sings with a big, powerful, wounded wail, a soulful delivery shared with just a tinge less projectile force by acoustic guitarist Catherine McGowan. Violinist Nicole Scorsone plays vividly and tersely, adding considerable poignancy to the band’s sound. Their sub bass player locked in impressively with the drums.  Their first song was an apprehensive minor-key number: “So long since I’ve been myself,” mused Malavarca. My Black Cat, sung by McGowan had a rustic Nashville gothic feel: toward the end of the song, the cat dies, and it’s not pretty. As the song wound up, Malavarca moved to the standup drum kit they’d set up to the side of the stage.

Another song was fast and fiery, punctuated with staccato violin and a swaying rhythm that grew funkier toward the end. Built around a catchy, insistent two-chord riff, When It’s Real was captivatingly perturbed, Malavarca’s soulful vocals effectively capturing a feeling of being pushed past the limit of willingly putting up with someone’s bullshit. The show wound up with a fast, Paisley Underground inflected stomp, a swaying, stark anthem possibly titled Irish Moss, and the somewhat epic Sleepless Aristotle which wound up as a delirious percussion jam, the whole band (and a friend of the band) joining in the pandemonium, banging on whatever was nearby and would resonate. This is a band that’s still growing – in places, some of the songs fall into the kind of lazy atonality that makes so much of indie rock so lame, i.e. the tendency to move a single note in a chord up or down a half step instead of shifting hand position to the real major or minor chord that would resolve the phrase more memorably and melodically. But most of the songs don’t have that problem. And indie rock types wouldn’t know the difference anyway. Watch this space for upcoming NYC area live dates.

July 21, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment