The Retrospective

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Close Encounters with Tribal Aliens: Yeasayer in Sala Caracol

March 30th, 2010 by


Though Yeasayer was far from their native Brooklyn last Wednesday night, the packed crowd at Madrid’s Sala Caracol was clearly happy to see them. With the turnout and spirits both running high, the energetic crowd began dancing well before the band stepped on stage. The evening’s concertgoers were distressingly good-looking, all oozing their own breed of cool; the women sported stylish little belts and wild, wavy hair while the pierced and thickly bespectacled gentlemen chose buttondowns whose shirtsleeves afforded glimpses of artsy tattoos. While the audience was made up of mostly American and UK transplants, there were enough Spaniards present to convince me that Yeasayer’s unique cocktail of spaceships, synths and African drums has taken root with an Iberian audience.


Opening for Yeasayer was Hush Hush, a one-man, kinked out swinger’s party from Berlin. Hush Hush is a scintillating, vulgar performer with enough facial hair and blatant freakiness for ten men (and possibly a few bonobos, too). I admit that I underestimated him, since on first glance he’s an unassuming, tall and lanky gentleman with a Sam Beam beard. When he opened his mouth, though, the words and Prince-style squeals he sang over the syncopated beats grabbed my attention. Lyrics like “I’m goin’ down and it’s lookin’ like a murder scene,” and “I know where that string goes/that’s where I wanna be” are a big, kinky slap on the ass from the song “Bloody Sex.” I wanted to resist the vulgarity, but with beats so infectious, it was only a matter of time till I was a dancing goner. I also found the knowledge that this particularly shocking act was probably the product of many late nights spent alone in Mom’s basement twistedly enchanting.


After the equal parts horrifying and exhilarating set by Hush Hush, it was Yeasayer’s turn to delight the crowd. “Extraterrestrials in a mineshaft” was the first thought that fired across my synapses when they clomped onstage with the heavy-artilleried, industrially good “The Children.” That distortion-laden track was followed up by “Madder Red” and “I Remember,” which turned into a crowd sing-along that had everyone jiggling on the downbeat. “O.N.E.,” the second single off of Yeasayer’s newest release, Odd Blood, perfectly encompassed their singularly psychedelic touch, with varying degrees of alien encounters, thunking bass and 80s texture mixed into every note.


Just as each band member adds his own distinct flavor to the sonic sauce, the guys’ style reflected their individual talents, duties and personalities. Vocalist Chris was decked out in a vintage suit with skinny trousers, working the mic like a 1920s showman, while keyboardist and vocalist Aanand reported for duty in a full desert storm camouflage suit. One of the percussionists may or may not have been wearing a bow tie to accent his wholesome khaki and sweater combination while bassist Ira, obviously comfortable with advertising his manly virtues, showed up in nothing but a white tanktop and what can only be described as a long, black sock ensconcing his right arm. In the back was percussionist Luke, whose sartorial statement got lost amongst the flashing lights and glowing neon pods.


Yeasayer played nearly the entirety of Odd Blood, with a few surprises from All Hour Cymbals slipped in between. And just when I despaired that the night would end without my two favorite songs, they saved the day with what they must have known would be the perfect encore; “2080,” which they supposedly rarely perform live, and “Sunrise,” a song that’s gotten me through many a morning warm-up run.

While the show enticed the crowd to dance, sing and generally freak-out, I left the show asking myself the same question I had after hearing Odd Blood for the first time: where’s the climax? After a solid hour and a half of music that included the gleefully orgiastic freak funk wave of Hush Hush, I left the show still craving a crescendo that never quite came. All in all, Yeasayer brought a respectable performance to Madrid, but Hush Hush brought the heat.

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