Arts & Culture

The Observer Presents: The Concert Review Issue

FREELANCE WHALES by Katie Christiansen

Want to go to a fun concert? Go see Freelance Whales. It’s pop, it’s danceable, it’s an unabashed good time and when they inevitably get famous you can say, “I saw them first.”

To be honest, though, the first listen-through I gave to Weatherwaves, the freshman effort from the Queens-based quintet was less than thrilling. It was February, my Vitamin D intake was severely limited and the music that Freelance Whales was spitting out of my speakers was clearly meant for warmer climes, happier days. So when late March rolled around and we were graced with a few sweet days of sun, I decided to give the album another spin. 13 well-crafted electro-pop tunes sent me humming and toe-tapping across the President’s lawn, the perfect album for the beginning of Spring. I was hooked.

Their live show at The Middle East on April 8th was energetic and likeably rough around the edges—sure the mics squeaked here and there yeah, a couple of harmonies were off key. But the sheer enthusiasm that each band member showed for their music was endearing and infectious. I wanted to party with these people.

After kicking off the evening with “Generator ^ Second Floor”, one of the more upbeat tracks, the set continued with “Hannah”, an Owl City sound-alike (for better or for worse) whose lyrics playfully recount, “Hannah takes the stairs and I usually take the elevator/Every now and then she offers me a lemon Now and Later.” The sole female member of the group, Doris Cellar, alternated between bass and a vintage accordion while frontman Judah Dadone busted out a metal watering can for percussive diversity. Hey, why not?

After “Kilojoules”, the set transitioned into the heavier “Broken Horse” as well as an expressive Soy Un Caballo cover. That’s the great thing about Freelance Whales—sure, they sound poppy and radio-ready but there’s a grittier side that adds dimension to what is an impressively lengthy debut effort. Both the record and the live show are energetic with appropriate troughs for decompression and variation. Good stuff.


At most of the concerts I’ve been to, the stage has been cluttered with guitar stands and electric pianos and drums. Not so at this show; transitioning between artists has been a simple process of rewiring computers and turntables. Going to a concert where someone stands and mixes two songs by other artists together may seem odd, but the result is actually really fun. The dancefloor floods with people, some moving to the beat and others singing along with the mashed up versions of their favorite tunes. Listening to The Hood Internet live feels a lot like listening to them on an iPod, only much louder—at first. When the first beats of Ratatat’s “Wildcat” blended with Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” change everything. The mood becomes electric, and the audience is suddenly completely rapt and excited by whatever DJ STV SLV is doing behind the computer screen, and the dancing turns from party to concert immediately. Sure, you might get a remarkably similar experience from a fantastic speaker system and a rocking basement party, but watching the DJs behind a mashup band is definitely a worthwhile venture.

BEACH HOUSE & LITTLE DRAGON by Luke Pyenson and Catherine Nakajima

The first time I saw Beach House, I fell asleep. It was at the MFA, I was sitting down, I was pretty tired, and their lush, droney, dreamy slide guitars and keyboards washed over me like a tidal wave of NyQuil. Left in a semi-conscious state, I experienced one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. It’s perfect music to fall asleep to, so I was apprehensive about having to stand up to see them at the Paradise. Their new album, Teen Dream, is a little more upbeat than their last two releases, so that helped. It’s also one of my favorite releases in the past ten years, so I was hanging on their every note. I’d met them the night before at another concert, and I was hoping with every fiber of my soul that they’d somehow acknowledge me from the stage. Well, the night unfolded perfectly—they played every song from Teen Dream as well as my favorites from their older catalogue, and during a climactic moment of my favorite song, “Norway,” Victoria Legrand, their beautiful, majestic singer, waved at me. Needless to say, I stayed very awake and had the unique experience of having an orgasm while standing up in a public place listening to live music. LP

I’d always thought of Beach House as the band that opened for other better bands.  After listening to them non-stop over winter break, however, I realized that they’re the perfect band. On sunny days, they make sun’s rays infinitely warmer and gentler, and when it’s raining, they make reclusion desirable. Coming back to face Boston’s cold weather would’ve been depressing after an 80-degree spring break, so I decided to see Beach House play the night before classes resumed.  Best ticket ever bought.  The set resembled a sort of flashy yet dreary ’80s prom, with shiny strands of string and colorfully lit diamond-shaped piñatas. During “Norway,” the Legrand’s voice was flawlessly soothing, and the bizarre pitch-bends were played perfectly off-tune. Then, alas, two minutes and twenty seconds later, SHE WAVED AT MY FRIEND. She really did! It was awesome, my heart melted with happiness…for him. It was a great show. CN

SHOUT OUT: We also got to see Little Dragon play at Great Scott in Allston that same night. Kind of catchy, in the best way possible. It’s music that’s good for head-bopping and prancing around. It was an amazing show: Swedish-Japanese singer Yukimi Nagano rocked the stage with her enthusiastic, dance-y performance, while the synth beats sounded like jumping rabbits (again, in the best way possible). Amazing music—I encourage everyone to give it a listen.

MIDLAKE by Katie Boland

Midlake, best known for their critically-acclaimed debut album The Trials of Van Occupanther, is a guitar-heavy band of light folk rock with a bit of a surreal edge. I was a big fan of this first album, especially their hits “Roscoe” and “Young Bride,” but Midlake’s latest (The Courage of Others) was about as lame as its name; filled with redundant flute-heavy trance music, it had none of the strange introverted spark that carried their debut. Needless to say, I wasn’t too optimistic about their live show. However, I was caught impressed by the presence of – count ‘em – five guitars, drums, and a flute/keyboard/tamborine combination that seemed to be working off of one another quite well. That is, I was impressed until about thirty seconds in, when it became apparent that Midlake had fallen into some sort of funk. Yes, their rendition of  “Young Bride” was interesting and enjoyable; unfortuantely, their lackluster stage presence and uninteresting set list didn’t make for the best Friday night. There were plenty of balding hip dads really enjoying the drawl of lead singer Tim Smith, but I was not among them. It was clear from the crowd that Midlake speak to a bit of an older demographic; the show was completely full, but we seemed to be the youngest in attendance (basically the only ones with Xed-off hands).


The Low Anthem, 4/20 @ Paradise

Bassnectar, 4/22 @ House of Blues

Harlem, 4/25 @ Great Scott

White Rabbits with Here We Go Magic, 5/1 @ Paradise

Yeasayer with Sleigh Bells, 5/3 @ Paradise

Massive Attack, 5/13 @ House of Blues

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