The Garden - Live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Garden

Live in Philadelphia (2016)

live show

The Garden took the stage of Philadelphia’s Goldilocks Gallery on June 14, 2016, and immediately set into “Crystal Clear,” the centerpiece of their latest album, Ha Ha. Wyatt Shears’ menacing bass rumbled across the speaker, mixing with a twinkling synth bed, before brother Fletcher, on drums, ratcheted up the energy and the band kicked into that now iconic drop. They flipped from texture to power, and just as they made that transition, live the band demonstrated another sort of transition in their career…

When the Garden last played Philadelphia at Johnny Brendas, it was prior to the release of Ha Ha and it was unclear as to how the duo, who had released the punk minimalist Life and Times of a Paperclip would evolve. They started that show with their sparse two piece attack before suddenly tossing aside their instruments and going full-on electronic. It was an interesting, jarring split that showed the band exhibiting two completely different facets.

Yet, quite surprisingly, that divide was not apparent at the Goldilocks gallery show. The band focused on their newest LP (rightfully so). But, instead of demarcating a “punk” section and a “synth” section, most of the songs found the band pulling the daring feat of combining the two.

Few bands aside from the Screamers, Units, and Nervous Gender have really pulled off the synth-punk angle and each of those bands leaned heavy on the synth aspect. But, not so with the Garden. For every spacey, wigged out sound effect, there was a crushing bass line or a rumbling snare. Somehow, at the show, the band merged their two disparate sides, and in doing so, have truly created something new.

You might be able to cherry pick a sound here or a line there that has semblance to other artists, but with their hard, low rumble and their frantic, bit-broken computer sounds, the band really does come from some other realm. They are aggressive, but not tough guy. They are intelligent, but not smug. They are freaky, but not isolationist.

The young crowd at the show not only were very receptive to the duo, but were singing the choruses to these zagged-out tunes like they were as “normal” as say, Billy Joel or Tom Petty. To me, that is extremely curious. Is the band not only creating a new style, but changing how younger generations appreciate music? The fact is, the Garaden is one of the few truly unique bands out there today. But, not only are they unique, the craft, cleverness, and guile in their music shows that they are simply a great band- despite being normal, weird, or whatever else you want to label them.