Tilly and the Wall / The Ruby Suns - live in Brooklyn (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Tilly and the Wall / The Ruby Suns

live in Brooklyn (2008)

live show

Local all-female trio Vivian Girls began playing a few good minutes after the scheduled start time. I'm glad I wasn't anticipating it terribly; the threesome played frustratingly dull and rather straightforward garage "rock." Even they looked bored, so we were bored. The band worked best when throwing in a few creative riffs, but that happened only twice, and for all-too-brief a moment each; an often steady but stale drumbeat didn't help matters. Crowd reaction came via polite claps, but the barely half-filled venue wasn't exactly bringing the ruckus quite yet.

The Ruby Suns were next. This was sort of a bummer, because among No Age, Foals, the Helio Sequence, Grand Archives I'm really flocking to Sub Pop's recent release schedule like no other year; however, I distinctly remember receiving the Ruby Suns' Sea Lion in January or so and not getting into it at all. The band was made up of just two people, both from Auckland, New Zealand: frontman Ryan McPhun and Amee Robinson, both of whom were adept multi-instrumentalists. But I just wasn't feeling their super weird and inexplicably trippy indie pop, if you have to relegate them to a category; one song seemed to be solely comprised of "ahhhhh-wuhhhhhh-whoa-ohhhhhh"s. Another head-turning number sounded an awful lot like Joy Division, but was probably the best of the set. There were a healthy assortment of tribal drumming that went on, as well. At least the duo seemed into it, as did portions of the now-growing crowd. Maybe it was just me.

The last and only time I'd seen Tilly and the Wall was when they played the middle fiddle supporting Rilo Kiley's 2004 acoustic tour. As my musical taste had begun to expand just a bit at the time, Tilly found a good time to make an impact with me -- their set was entertaining, sincerely fun and musically impressive. Four years later that continues to be the case with their live show, except they've positioned tap dancer Jamie Presnall towards the back center like a normal percussionist (as opposed to her old place, which was up front and in a straight line with everyone else), stepped up the stage setup and put a huge emphasis on light and sound -- the choreographed dance moves, cacophony of color and excited instrument and vocal collisions was sometimes overwhelming, but overall pretty delightful. They've also kept the profanity laced in, which, well, isn't as silly you'd think. It was pretty much a straight-up dance party all the way through the near-hour-long set. Granted, we didn't get to hear a cover of "Hey Ya" -- but that proves just how dated my previous experience of them is. The fact they kept up an insane level of energy for nearly an hour was only more impressive.

Set list (10:50-11:33):

  1. Oh Shit, Let's Fuck It Up! entrance
  2. Too Excited
  3. Alligator Skin
  4. Rainbows in the Dark
  5. Falling Without Knowing
  6. Bad Education
  7. Reckless
  8. Beat Control
  9. Dust Me Off
  10. Cacophony
  11. Tall Tall Grass
  12. The Ice Storm, Big Gust, And You
  13. Pot Kettle Black
  14. Sing Songs Along
    Encore (11:35-11:48):
  15. Lost Girls
  16. Fell Down the Stairs
  17. Nights of the Living Dead