I hadn't intended to write about this show, but on reflection I determined that bills this enjoyable deserve a little extra effort, and that sleep, well, let's just say I've never let sleep get in the way of a concert.
New York's Beverly kicked off the night just after 10pm — right on time for the Blind Tiger. I had come to see the band, I have everything that the band has released, and I still had no idea what to expect. This is partially because frontwoman Drew Citron pulls the strings for the project, and aside from guitarist Scott Rosenthal, the band's line-up is always in flux. This tour brought a solid group of backing musicians including Laura Catalano (of Weed Hounds) on guitar and backing vocals, Nico Hedley on bass, and Keith Carne on drums. There was no synth on this tour; I'm not sure if there ever is. Throughout the set, these hired guns did Citron's bidding: laying down the motorik rhythm tracks, providing touches of shoegaze filigree and supporting vocal, and seldom making eye contact with Citron or her audience. Citron herself was relaxed, but not very talkative. This made me wonder how the Blind Tiger basement is perceived by touring bands. Is it intimidating? Is it pitiful? Are the dank confines particularly off-putting to a band that trades in warm sunny compositions? If the venue put the band off its game, the musicians didn't let on. Instead they delivered a straightforward and unadorned (you'll never find fewer pedals on the stage of a band so often linked with shoegaze) performance that ventured from blissed-out dream pop to emphatic indie rock. The nine-song setlist covered both albums as well as several new tracks, and although not all of my favorites were included, I was happy to hear "Honey Do," from 2014's Careers (Kanine Records), is still part of the live set. It's the perfect symbiosis of chugging rhythms, soaring vocals, and swirling guitars, making it a great place to start if you're new to the band.
Shared gear allowed touring partners EZTV to quickly take over the stage. I'd not seen, heard, nor even heard of, the band before the set. As such, my observations about the band and its performance were mostly superficial. Primarily, I noted the cowboy hats and Wranglers. Americana? No, but there may be a Gram Parsons connection, as despite the band's NYC zip code, the touring quartet delivered a set of warm, early-1970s California pop rock. This Golden State connection was further cemented when the band covered Flamin' Groovies 1974 single "You Tore Me Down." Several members of the audience knew all the words, swelling my heart with pride for my Blind Tiger misfit family.
The band is, for all intents and purposes, the project of vocalist/guitarist Ezra Tenenbaum. A songwriter he may be, but a performer he was not. On stage Tenenbaum was a shrinking violet, shyly playing his songs while studying the neck of his vintage Baldwin guitar, or staring off past the far wall of the dark basement. His co-conspirators — in the form of touring guitarist Christian Peslak, bassist Shane O'Connell, and drummer Michael Stasiak — also offered little showmanship, although the first two did join Tenenbaum in some delightful three-part harmonies. EZTV is now on my radar, and this time when their publicist emails me, I'll read with anticipation, looking for my own starting point for future fandom.
Between bands I slipped outside, past the smokers on the patio hemmed in by a makeshift rope barrier, to the unnamed concrete plaza. It was Labor Day and earlier in the sunshine it had been hot, but now, still in my shorts and t-shirt, I was cool. It was here that I waited out the last minutes of summer, and the evening's final set change. From my perch next to the tall plants, I concluded that Shy Boys were a brilliant choice to headline the night — the band has some national attention (thanks in no small part to a good showing in Pitchfork), a lot of local goodwill, doesn't play often (certainly not at Blind Tiger), and its sweet, ramshackle pop songs share a breezy kinship with the touring acts. Well done, unknown promoter.
It was just after midnight when I returned to the basement, and Shy Boys took the stage in its current four-piece configuration. While the band is still led by Collin Rausch's thin vocals and clean guitar, and is still supported by his brother Kyle Rausch and Konner Ervin who share loose bass and looser percussion duties, it's guitarist Kyle Little who is a somewhat recent addition. Does his playing create a fuller sound, allow for interesting leads, or open space for monster solos? Generally, no. While I was admittedly not focused on the question, I can only say that this second guitar just was. It didn't distract from the band's simple songs that amble amiably and, like a good houseguest, are gone before you start to pick them apart. It didn't distract from the high vocals of Collin Rausch, or the falsettos that backed him. And it didn't distract members of both Drugs & Attics and The Whiffs who stood next to the stage mouthing lyrics, playing air guitar licks, and, when their drunken dexterity allowed for it, dancing. This is still Shy Boys.
The band's eleven-song set featured a handful of songs from the first album, both sides of the preceding single, and was bolstered by an even number of new tracks that the band is currently recording for its second album. The new songs didn't feel materially different — there are still songs that float by lackadaisically and others that gallop by with urgency and purpose. I suspect the buoyant nature of the band will endear the songs to fans, whether those fans hear the album on a turntable in a sunny kitchen, or see it performed live in the stale basement of The Blind Tiger. And chances are, if it's the later, I'll be there regardless of the sleepless consequences.