Braids and Pepper Rabbit
September 28th, 2011
Whoever said that going to a bar and being swept into atmospheric rock isn't normal Wednesday night business obviously did not forward the memo to Detroit Bar, which hosted Braids and Pepper Rabbit last night.
Despite being 45 minutes off from their scheduled 9 p.m. start, people started trickling into the bar as the night wore on; a pretty good crowd emerged by the time the bands got onstage.
Openers Painted Palms did a good job doing what opening bands should do; somehow summoning the hipster nocturnals from their hiding places while establishing an airiness of music that stayed put the entire night. Haling from San Francisco, the three-piece mixed reverb into pretty much everything; the result was the sort of aloofness that can only be produced when nobody can understand the lyrics.
By the time Pepper Rabbit came on, people were just starting to get a little drunk, which is always good for a band's effect (especially in the case atmospheric music like last night's). They struck a balance between Painted Palms' echo and Braids' electric twangs, almost bringing the crowd along with them; dreamy and slightly distorted vocals practically used the Detroit Bar's sound system to their advantage.
Before the bands began that night the Shins had been playing over the speakers in the bar, so remnants of the Portman-endorsed and supposedly life-changing band still lingered in my mind, but mostly in memory fragments of a subpar Outside Lands set. Pepper Rabbit surpassed those fragments, though, bringing along with them a rough sentimental purity that the Shins should have always had but really don't.
Braids' set, albeit late, was bound to be the one whose energy would eke out the most dancing from the crowd. And indeed it did, though the floor lacked the vivacity it could have. Still, Braids gave their usual incredible set, juxtaposing sharp electronic chirps with the softness the band's vocal harmonies. At many points over their set, singers Raphaelle Standell-Preston and Katie Lee's voices seemed to meld together into one voice. At other points the softness turned thorny (or otherwise, not as devoutly euphoric) as drum effects added on top of ones on the band's guitars and keys.
As they geared up for their last song, Standell-Preston addressed the crowd, saying that they were going to end the night softly so that we could all "fall asleep easily tonight." They concluded their set with the very spacey "Native Speaker," the title track off their latest album, truly soothing the crowd into a half-daydream state of reverie; some people in the crowd sat down in starry-eyed appreciation for the apparent lullaby, only barely brought back to reality when it ended.
Critic's Bias: I sometimes dance to Braids' "Lemonade" in the mirror, and I'm nowhere close to ashamed of that.
The Crowd: Thick-framed glasses types whose folded arms betrayed their intentions to look cool drinking Jack and Cokes on a Wednesday evening; they enjoyed themselves during the sets but in between looked like they might be setting their internal alarm clocks.
Overheard in the Crowd:
"People who wear white pants take in the butt. Like... Justin Bieber. That guy wears white pants and he totally takes it in the butt."
"I'm really going to remember this guy, he has a very angular jawline."
"What time are you leaving?"
"I love fat chicks and tequila!"
"I love you. But only because you wear white pants."
Random Notebook Dump: The aforementioned comments about white pants seemed to severely hinder a certain white-jeaned wallflower from enjoying the night's performances.
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