Filed under: Features | Tags: Black Moth Super Rainbow, Casiokids, dan friel, Features, Mike Wolf, Psychocandy, River to River Festival, School of Seven Bells, Secret Machines, South Street Seaport, The Cure, The xx
PREVIEW: Download School of Seven Bells’ “Face to Face on High Places” MP3
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Black Moth Super Rainbow, Blank Dogs, and Dan Friel at the Seaport; Pains of Being Pure at Heart, ZAZA, and Ribbons at the Seaport
From everything we’ve come to expect from River to River, there were no surprises at their last show at the lovely South Street Seaport. It was a beautiful night for a concert and while the crowd wasn’t nearly as animated as they were the week before at Casiokids or during Black Moth Super Rainbow’s incredible set, both The xx and School of Seven Bells made up for it with dreamier live acts. Opening DJ Mike Wolf? Not so much
Apart from some amusing Cure, Psychocandy, and other ‘80s throwbacks set against the modern rock tracks, overall Mike Wolf’s mixing was pretty uninspiring, with the crowd sitting through most of it. Dan Friel a few weeks ago was a far more impressive opener, but then, we can’t all be awesome enough for crowd members to tambourine for us.
The xx, a four-piece from the United Kingdom, were a competent enough opening band, with interesting song structures and crystal-clear guitar lines. However, we haven’t seen a more morose crew of characters in a while, and the fact that all four of them stood rooted to their positions on stage throughout the performance made them a less than inspiring live act. Still, their wistful vocals and rhythmic drum machine beats were enough to keep most the crowd entertained and happily spaced out.
School of Seven Bells, appropriately, were the highlight of the night. Only consisting of three members — twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza and The Secret Machines’ Benjamin Curtis — the ethereal, full-bodied sound they established on their debut LP Alpininisms shone through uncommonly well. Live, their sound is similar to that of dream-pop godfathers Blonde Redhead — unsurprising considering they’ve toured together — but School of Seven Bells manages to get a lot more done in their live show.
Whereas The xx insisted on a short range of movement onstage, School of Seven Bells, minus Alejandra on keyboards, insisted on rocking out the whole time. With Curtis manipulating the electronic setup in the background when he wasn’t rocking out on his guitar — and flailing around the middle of the stage when he was, the crowd couldn’t help but love them. It’s always impressive to watch bandmembers doing multiple things at the same time, and the contemplatively abstract vocals from the Deheza twins only added to the experience. The trippy video of the band playing behind the real band onstage didn’t hurt either.
Playing an encore with their hit song “Face to Face on High Places,” School of Seven Bells not only provided a worthy closing to a great night of music, but a fond farewell to the Seaport, and River to River’s free shows there for the summer. And we can’t wait to head back there again!
— Story and Photos by Eric Vilas-Boas