If ever there was a contest for a concert to best showcase the sounds of summer, this was certainly a top contender. A lazy Sunday evening seemed too perfect a time for bands like Real Estate, Dent May, and Andrew Cedermark to play a mid-July show evocative of the malaise that summer brings out in all of us.
Charlottesville,VA-based opener Andrew Cedermark is no stranger to the DC-scene. Though the crowd was slow to pour in, the trio showed no restraint in blowing down the doors with their tremendous sound. Like Ted Leo used to say, “it’s the sonics, not the phonics”; the power of Cedermark’s songs rests not within his vocals, but rather the tidal waves of screeching guitars, lightning-speed drumming, and a bassist who effortlessly played both bass and synthesizer simultanously laying both foundation and pads of sound.
Cedermark’s set started with shorter songs around the four minute mark, and evolved into longer eight-minute pieces that allowed time to fully develop truly powerful and dare I say almost prog sounds? Initial reactions may incite thoughts of predictablity or straightforwardness, but by the end of the set, it was apparent not only to myself, but the rest of the room that Cedermark has developed a unique sound of his own that is equal parts shoegaze and relaxing.
Self-professed ‘boy-from-Mississippi’ Dent May then took the stage and in true showman fashion took his sweet sweet time with the soundcheck; all the while with house music nowhere to be heard. In this awkward moment, all eyes were on him, and it seemed that the crowd’s impatience yielded some kind of expectation for his band to be good, or great even.
Dent May is known for being a modern-day crooner and incorporating ukulele into kitschy pop songs about Mississippi and Michael Chang. Like the kitsch, the uke was gone, and it seemed now Dent May took a more honest approach at making good music as opposed to what I would imagine to be a long-running joke. The first few songs slowly got the audience’s attention, but it was the moment when “Wedding Bells” played that truly got the crowd moving, utilizing the same catchy beat from the Cardigans’ “Lovefool”. Any semblance of anxiety or impatience for May’s schtick had been erradicated at this point, and the crowd was truly invested, as evidenced by the entire room dancing along.
The power of Dent May’s set however, relied heavily on his backing band who were clearly very talented musicians fully capable of nailing the harmonies, beats, and basslines. I think I would probably hate to see Dent May perform solo, but with the band, I am afraid to admit that I’m actually kind of hooked. Despite the strong contingency of Mississippi supporters, many non-Mississippians were converted last sunday.
Real Estate have a profound knack for creating recordings that capture and envision the doldrums and desolation that is New Jersey surf. Real Estate is certainly one of those bands riding those chillwaves; songs are easygoing, and even the faster ones seem to have a laid back aspect to it. This is of course on the record; live is a different story. Most songs played were newer songs whether off of their Out of Tune 7”, or unreleased material from their forthcoming album due in October. While the vibe was still slightly laid back, Real Estate made it a point not to bore the crowd, even if they did a little.
Guitarist Matthew Mondanile definitely brought his characteristic Ducktails sound to the band in the form of washed guitars run through hazy filters and space echo, serving as the perfect compliment to Martin Courtney’s lazy vocals. In fact, it’s Mondanile’s guitars that truly give the quartet their signature sound. His tone is not such a straightforward reverbed-out surf sound, rather his guitarwork gleams of psychedelia and cosmic tones. Don’t get me wrong, Courtney’s guitarwork compliments well, and while both sound identical, they both served their purposes whether counterplaying one another, or joining forces to create epic washes of sound. Etienne Duguay’s drumwork was both tight and loose; having a lax feel, but also incorporating Pertesque (Neil Pert-esque that is) fills on the more epic jams. Oft-undervalued, though far more integral to the set than anyone will give credit for, is Alex Bleeker’s basswork. If nothing else, he certainly provided comic relief, which was nice considering Courtney’s apathy.
Apathy is however, a part of the sound, at least on the record. I wonder how the newrecord will play out considering the near-danceable nature of the new songs. In any event, Real Estate, Dent May, and Andrew Cedermark all delievered memorable sets, even if deterred by their little quirks.