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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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