By Marc Merius
Heading towards the picturesque, gilded waterfront of The Wharf, I braced myself for what I anticipated to be a rallying cry in support of the amorphous Resistance. While the band Grizzly Bear may be apolitical, singer Ed Droste has spent the last few years engaging in a high profile series of social media rants and beefs, from Taylor Swift to Ivanka Trump, using his platform to champion his ideals of justice and engagement.
On the anniversary of a paradigm shifting election, I anticipated cheers of celebration for recent electoral success and a plea to keep up the activism. With no space immune from the contagion of politics, from football stadiums to pizzerias, everyone has to pick a side. Instead I found seasoned practitioners at the heights of their powers, engaging in a democratic execution of art.
With flowing textured ruins framing the stage, Grizzly Bear ascended to the stage and began a 90 minute set. Tonight was about the music, with no sum being greater than the whole. After the opening salvo of “Four Cypresses”, “Losing All Sense”, and “Cut-Out” from the latest release Painted Ruins, the band briefly introduced themselves before breezily leaning into “Yet Again” from 2012’s Shields.
Throughout the night, watching the band engage with material approaching a decade in age was inspiring and wistful. Released in mid-August, Ruins offered up a meditation on melancholy that was still engaging. With the members, and full disclosure your author, firmly in the phase of life that is no longer youth, but far from middle age, the record provided an experience that was questioning without being maudlin. So it was surprising to hear “Two Weeks,” the seminal single from 2009’s Vecktamist relegated to a middle of the set. What would easily have been a closer or encore in the recent years was relegated to a mid-set breather. Tonight was about progress and forward momentum, not resting on laurels.
Enveloped in atmospheric shadows, the band exquisitely wove “Foreground”, “Knife” and “Three Rings” ending with “While You Wait for Others.” A well-oiled machine, the band played through fraught technical difficulties throughout the encore. “We’re a real band, playing real instruments” said Droste with a wry smile. “Shit happens.” Closing with “Shift” and a rousing “Sun is in your Eyes,” Grizzly Bear was able to offer a night of reprieve from an all-consuming reality.
However, walking along the waterfront I was reminded of the lyric from “On a Neck, On a Spit.”
You can’t come home again/
Each time it’s different
At least for the night, I had some time to walk and look towards the horizon, waiting.