All words: Robert Winship — All photo: Farrah Skeiky
I was not a fan of Real Estate before this show. I was not very interested in the sleepy brand of Jersey, beach-gazing, lo-fi pop established in their eponymous 2009 debut. If any band is well-named, its Real Estate, plugged up and down the critical spectrum with their 2011 release Days, like an open-house sign for the world’s would-be scene hoppers looking to be up on the next piece of sonic real estate. I love New Jersey, despite the myriad of reasons to the contrary. Bands like Titus Andronicus have done justice to the Garden State in nearly the same time-frame as Sunday’s honorary torchbearers. The first round of tracks I heard from Real Estate never registered beyond lush hangover-music for the pure-at-heart. But distaste can refine a pallet and so Real Estate brought me out to a live setting to find out whether they were worth more than a passing look.
More than a few gentleman staked a spot at the front door early on to sell tickets. It’s not entirely surprising that some people were simply giving away tickets. I can see the greedy hand behind a money-making ploy beginning with the thought that EVERYONE is going to want to shell out for a Pitchfork-approved act. Right? Since the house guest-list hadn’t made its’ way to the ticket window when I arrived, I was struck with a sense of providence at the spares being handed out and grabbed one before hustling into the quarter-full club at 7:50.
First up was R. Stevie Moore, introducing his his set, as he would later transition between songs, with non-sequiturs and sort-of-ironic quips “I tell you what. The cowboys…they look good this year”, receiving a loud applause. I had no idea what to make of the pajama-pant clad, bass playing, Jerry Garcia look-alike. Moore rocked a pretty straight-forward style of bass-playing. What stood out about the group is how cleverly he lays down un-showy riffs beneath two guitars prone to dirty blues-pop and occasionally dropping into heavy phaser-laden solos. Moore alternated between a surprisingly tone-conscious delivery and an all-out holler. Between later songs, he would comment on his status as something of a lo-fi superstar “I don’t know nothing about Lo-Fi…No-Fi.” In reality he’s a sort of godfather to home-recording, having released some 400 personal and professional-quality albums since his entrance to the music scene in the late 60s. His longevity and talent as a songwriter and performer was never more evident than his ability to let his band of truly talented musicians shine between his honest and punchy vocals. Indeed, Moore succeeded Sunday night in that he never tried to out-stage his own team. It’s no small feat for such a seeming character.
Beneath the lit, cluttered strings of backyard lights, a plainly-dressed Real Estate took stage. Their night was fraught with endless amp troubles and near-constant favor with the crowd. “This might be the last show we do like this for a while” singer Martin Courtney regretfully thanked the crowd with tour-ending sentiment. But the sadness and frustration gave new breath to songs like “Green Aisles” as Courtney sang, “Our careless lifestyle, it was not so unwise”. Through the multiple gear replacements, they would play “Out of Tune” and never budge in the irony.
But if there’s one thing Real Estate does well, it’s play. The most overwhelming sense you get from Real Estate is their one of pacing— a slow pace, to be sure, but with no less impact as the vocals wriggle into the haze of tube-warmed, picked and washed chords. In the same way that R. Stevie Moore knew how to take a backseat to his fellow bandmates, Martin Courtney knows when to sing and when to let the vocal-less moments glide into oblivion. Real Estate played their recent hit, “It’s Real” a little more than halfway through the set and their greatness was confirmed in that it was the weakest track. It’s short and relatively free of the psychedelic wanderings on the instrumental “Kinder Blumen” or the sweetness of “Suburban Dogs”. However, for all the affirmation and brevity, it betrays the reward of the more careful melody-building the band does elsewhere. The closing track “All the Same” ended an hour-long set prior to the encore.
The band again returned to the porch-like stage. This time the stage was still wet with the sounds and textures of the previous sixty minutes. Not, but a few moments later, they slid into a cover of the always-magnificent “Undone (The Sweater Song)”, a number which wrapped the crowd into eager choir singing “Watch me unravel. I’ll soon be naked, lying on the floor.” The final song, “Beach Comber” was bulked up a bit to take advantage of a climax-inducing rally. They brought all of their sound and passion to deliver a show worthy of writing home about. Rather, they performed with such conviction and beauty that it would be hard not to be swayed by that same beach-gazing brand of New Jersey pop.
Younger Than Yesterday
Out of Tune
In My Car
All The Same
Undone (The Sweater Song) *cover
- R. Stevie Moore