All words: Mindy Barrett
All photos: Julian Vu
Givers are what I imagine a current-day, real-life Electric Mayhem would sound like (or at the very least, perform like). Despite the frequent comparison to the Flaming Lips (living Muppets unto themselves), there’s something jam-bandy about Givers. I don’t mean that as an insult, and I’m not entirely sure why I think it. Maybe it’s the group-effort quality to their music – no one band member carries their music, and no one instrument defines their sound. Indeed, they boast a cavalcade of vocals and instruments (double-percussion, ukelele, flute, and melodica on top of the standard fare). I didn’t make the Electric Mayhem comparison listening to In Light before seeing them live (definitely Flaming Lips; a little Yo La Tengo in their too). But their performance was all Muppet.
Percussionist and vocalist Tiffany Lamson was a storm of hair and arms, like a lovely-lady-voiced Animal. And the eye-rolling, lunging Taylor Guarisco bares resemblance to fellow guitar-player, Sgt Floyd Pepper. (It’s harder to appropriately assign a Dr Teeth, Janice, and Zoot, but we’re dealing with two five-member bands, so i remain confident in this drawn-out comparison).
This is the first great use of lights I’ve seen at the Rock and Roll Hotel. I’m pretty sure it made everyone slightly less sober, so I encourage them to carry on with this new fun-making tradition. It was especially appropriate for this show, which is one of the first I’ve been to in DC where people actually danced and didn’t try to hide their excitement (nay, everyone was jumping around, waving their arms like Muppets just before showtime). By the by, it was a very tightly packed room full of cheerful Muppet-like young people – I’d wager a bit more cheerful than the sold-out crowd for Beirut across town, but who knows? The entire Givers experience was giddy-making. And they hold up in concert – their arrangements actually sounded fuller and richer in person than on In Light or their EP, which is saying a lot. This is the second act I’ve seen this year with a double-percussion set-up (Pat Jordache being the other) and it’s working in both bands’ favors – everyone sounds like Echo and The Bunnymen and Simple Minds (in a good way!). I like this trend, and I like Givers a whole bunch.
I’d be remiss not to mention Pepper Rabbit, who opened for Givers. They set up in a horseshoe of keyboards and drums, with each keyboard player double-fisting a guitar (or bass). Their vocals were reminiscent of The Pet Shop Boys, and their arrangements were like Pulp covers of Pet Sounds – slightly melancholy beach-party music.It’s a really fascinating juxtaposition of genres, so have yourself a listen. They’re well-matched to tour with Givers, who I’ll describe again, as the place where Yo La Tengo, Animal Collective, and The Grateful Dead converge…that’s a pretty specific and pretty fantastic place.