all words: William Alberque
all photos: Chris Chen
The Raveonettes are one of those rare bands that combine ubiquity and obscurity in equal measures. Namedropped by everyone – whether by shoegazers, pop dabblers, noise addicts, or willful obscurants – they are listened to by too few (as a DJ, very few people request them, and when they do, it comes down to the same song, “Dead Sound” rather than “Love in a Trashcan”). Their “fashionable” reputation has become a millstone, along with that ever-heavier “next big thing” tag hung around their necks. Don’t get me wrong – I do not blame them – as their stellar performance at the Black Cat Sunday night proved, they deservedly wow those that watch and listen. The Raveonettes are an impossibly beautiful band to look at, with a wonderful stage presence, minimalist-but-perfect light show, and immaculately crafted and performed songs. So why aren’t they playing a sold-out 930 Club? I love that Denmark’s finest musical export played the Black Cat, with its intimate atmosphere, and the fact that I could walk around without feeling crowded by a sold-out crowd. But I could not help feeling they deserved more.
The opening act, Tamaryn, was a revelation (I have been having a lot of those lately, thank you BYT). With an album (Waves) out last year on Mexican Summer, her earlier singles are collectors’ items – rightfully so.
Tamaryn’s built a live band somewhere between Grimble Grumble and Mazzy Star – sleepy, dreamy shoegaze, but with the occasional freak-out or bite that made me sit up and take notice. Her live band seem to have a shared hair-in-face fetish – a couple times she brushes her long, unruly mane out of the way only to put it right back in her face as she takes the microphone.
She was pretty restrained – I don’t think they said a single word to the audience while on stage. It was almost like watching a perfect film of a shoegaze band rather than a live experience, but mesmerizing – with vocals shared with the boy guitarist (his hair more naturally in his face than hers).
I loved it, but a review beyond saying, “listen to ‘Left Out’ by Grimble Grumble, add drums, put a noiser freakout at the end, repeat – in a good way,” I can’t really help you. Go online, listen – you get precisely that live. I’m a new fan.
I ran back to the merch stand to make sure there was something – an older EP as well as the new CD – I had to have both. Tamaryn herself was ubiquitous after she played, and quite a talker in person (damn attractive, too). Any traces of her New Zealand accent are obscured from her time in the States, but she is quite charming. I look forward to listening to the records.
And then the Raveonettes. They do exactly what you would want them to do: look beautiful, play beautifully, and be absolutely irrepressibly charming onstage. Each song follows the same template – JAMC meets the Ronettes in a warm, California sunny breeze – and yet each song feels different and vital live.
The light show – a series of vertical neon lights spaced evenly along the back of the stage – adds something so perfect, obvious, and simple as to make other recent shows I’ve seem poorly thought out in comparison.
The songs seem more full, live, as well, with added drums and extra guitar providing shimmer and shine, gaze with a dance-beat. Sharon Foo is ethereal beauty on stage, moving with a grace and a big smile on her face. She looks approachable and Sune Rose Wagner seems to be having one hell of a time on stage, too. The audience were quite engaged, danced a good deal, and had plenty to say to the band. The atmosphere was one of simple, happy pleasure.
For me, as I said before, I don’t quite get why the Raveonettes aren’t playing to crowds double this size. At the same time, I came away with a clutch of Tamaryn’s records, and not the Raveonettes new one. I’m as guilty as everyone else, then. Too bad – but I will look out for both bands touring again.