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Summer 2010 Coverage: Yeasayer, Keepaway and Delicate Steve rock Governor’s Island 6/05 by 20watts

Yeasayer

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Summer spirits soar when the entertainment’s free and the entertainment strive to be indie rock legends. Such was the case this past weekend at Governor’s Island when Delicate Steve, Keepaway and headliner Yeasayer took the Converse stage as part of the Converse-sponsored, mostly free “Gone to Governors” series.

“This must be the most remixed song ever,” Yeasayer frontman Chris Keating said before the group launched into a charged rendition of their signature song “O.N.E.” The crowd responded by blowing up with pop-and-locks, cheers and continuing to toss around a beach ball that had previously hit Keating in the face.

“O.N.E.” and show-closer “Ambling Alp” highlighted Yeasayer’s set, one whose first half progressed too slowly for my tastes. Whether it was Keating’s mostly affectless performance method of traipsing around the stage and twitching like a talentless Thom Yorke or the fact that other aspects of Yeasayer’s live show looks too much like Radiohead’s for my taste. (Yeasayer used white instrument stands that lit up with multi-colored light, Radiohead’s 2008 tour made wide use of similar hanging lights.)

There are a few problems with that, the foremost being that despite how much the crowd loved them, Yeasayer are as of yet neither as talented, nor as entertaining as those ’90s deconstructionists we all know and claim to love. Yeasayer’s weirder, trippier songs dominated most of the first half of the set, resulting in a subpar performance until they got to songs that most of the crowd actually knew and could dance.

Nevertheless, once Yeasayer picked up, none of the bandmembers faltered even once. To Yeasayer’s credit, the songs sounded much like they do on-record, and when they didn’t, it was a vast improvement. All Hour Cymbals single “2080” vastly surpassed its album version, with Ira Wolf Tuton’s incessant bass-line galloping with surprising volume before the song’s recognizable harmonic shouting kicked in.

Yeasayer have previously been compared to Animal Collective for that same harmonizing, but no one was guiltier of AC-aping on Saturday night than opener Keepaway, who recently dropped their first EP. Keepaway’s set was noted by multiple concertgoers as sounding exactly like that of the Brooklyn blow-up act from Baltimore, and apart from their set-closer and the fact that they managed a shockingly convincing imitation, they weren’t that interesting to watch, much less listen to.

“Where’s Brooklyn?” Keepaway frontman Nick Nauman asked the crowd before he and his band pointed to the heavens above. It was all I could do not to facepalm at the cliché he and his two bandmates represented. This comment was only one of too many sprinkled between the field-recordings and hominid-vocals they called songs.

Delicate Steve might have been the night’s biggest surprise. He and his crew of homegrown post-rockers who just also happened to be supremely talented musicians got great cheers from people they must have known in the crowd. They pounded, noodled and rape-whistled their way expertly through a 30-minute set largely without muttering a word and always kept their music innovative.

However, in spite of Keepaway’s harmless shenanigans and the lower points of Yeasayer’s set, the night of music at Governor’s Island was overall very entertaining, and certainly better than many of the free shows I’ve been to. The ultimate low-point of the night was the direct result of poor planning on the part of show-coordinators’  failure to anticipate the flocks of people leaving a concert after it ends.

I and the other thousand people trying to get on a ferry back to Manhattan certainly did not appreciate being corralled like cattle behind a pointless barrier for the better part of an hour. Plan on people actually leaving your venue after the show’s over next time, guys. Thanks.

— Eric Vilas-Boas

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