Brooklyn's Family Band was already a song or two into their set when we arrived, and lo and behold, they were pretty good. They did sort of a shoegaze/post-rock sound with a vague touch of folky twang and plenty of smokey female vocals overtop. They were a perfectly sensible opener for Warpaint, but just managed to deviate enough to mark their own territory. They had this really gauzy flow that was captivating at times; they gelled well, and it probably helped that their frontwoman/guitarist Kim Krans and guitarist/vocalist Jonn Ollsin are a married couple.
PVT was less enticing. The Australian trio, previously known as Pivot, played a heavily dancey/electronic post-punk type thing–sort of avant-garde and New Order-y but with more annoying loops and samples that could be grating at points. It definitely got some in the crowd dancing, but I wasn't really feeling it.
The Los Angeles quartet known as Warpaint then came on to enthusiastic whooping and cheers. These ladies just get huge responses in NY, and seem to have this big, perennial buzz backing them since they released their excellent full-length debut, The Fool, late last year. Back at the Brooklyn show they played in December, it was all about choking atmosphere and mesmerizing lights. Here, the band seemed more spontaneous, and while that could mean extending a bridge into a murky jam session or falling on their tendencies to merely meander, it also showed how comfortable and flexible they were with these songs.
And speaking of the songs...if there's one mood you associate with Warpaint, it's probably not a pretty one. These songs are just basically downers, so it's funny to see how joyful and loose all four of them seem playing them live–even when prowling through the stark mutter of something like "Warpaint". Bassist Jenny Lindberg was consantly joking around with the rest of the band through exaggerated head bobs or ridiculous faces that would result in barely contained smirks, and drummer Stella Mozgawa would crack up uncontrollably without losing a beat on her particularly hard hits. (Opener "Set Your Arms Down" actually found her switching spots with vocalist/guitarist Theresa Wayman.) They looked like they had a great time as they wound through two-thirds of both The Fool and their prior EP, Exquisite Corpse.
They exuded a certain sly confidence through the entire performance, but retained an experimental tilt that gave the songs unexpected twists and turns, sometimes subtle variations that didn't chip away at the core of deeply disturbing, dark emotion inherent in almost all them. All with a smile, of course.
Set list (11:14-12:17):
- Set Your Arms Down
- Billie Holiday