Bright Eyes - Conor Oberst
Williamsburg Waterfront at East River State Park, home to some of the summer's biggest ticketed and free live shows, logged another solidly successful evening of music in the books this past Wednesday with the eclectic combination of Bright Eyes, Dr. Dog, and Real Estate. At first, these three bands seemed like odd choices to fill a bill, as they all bring a different brand of sound and songwriting to the table, but as the evening progressed, it became evident that the bands' differences were indeed the strength of the evening.
This reviewer wants to avoid making generalizations of any kind about the fans of specific bands that bought tickets for this show. That being said, it seems unreasonable (in these thrifty times) to spend forty-plus dollars on a ticket to just see the headliner. Those music appreciators who only made an appearance for Bright Eyes missed out on two solid sets of music, one of which bordered on the brilliant and made the evening well worth the price of admission before Conor Oberst even had a chance to set foot on stage.
Real Estate - Martin Courtney
Real Estate - Alex Bleeker
Real Estate, New Jersey's indie surf-rock darlings, made the most of their opening slot, filling their short set with aural energy. The band was tight, and the (relatively) thin crowd that was planted in front of the stage showed their appreciation for the ensemble effort to make the songs pop. It can be hard for a band to bring significant amounts of energy for an daytime opening slot in the great outdoors, and while one could make the argument that the band appeared listless, this reviewer thinks that they should not be faulted for putting on a sonically pleasing set and leaving the theatrics for the bands on deck.
All of which brings us to Dr. Dog, and quite possibly one of the best sets of the summer season. The sun was still shining brightly when the band took the stage, but they immediately set an aggressive and highly energetic tone for their (unfortunately short) set of songs. They played a balanced and thoughtfully arranged selection of songs from "Shame, Shame" and "Fate," their two most recent full lengths, and they played these songs with gusto and precision. Downtime was kept to a minimum, and they managed to play an impressive number of songs in forty-five minutes, even squeezing in an encore of "Heart It Races," their version of the Architecture in Helsinki song that is always a pleasure to hear live. In short, they played the hits, and didn't really stray too far from them, but that simply did not matter. They were, for the entire set, a pure pleasure to watch. This reviewer hesitates to name another band that is capable of that kind of commendable artistry in an opening slot.
Bright Eyes - Conor Oberst
Bright Eyes capped off the evening with a set of songs that was marked by inconsistencies and left the audience pleased but wanting. The band started strong, with frontman Oberst delivering his idiosyncratic lyrics with his trademark vocal delivery. The rest of the band was quite entertaining as well, and they displayed a remarkable amount of versatility, given Mr. Oberst's tendency to write songs in any style that he wants. The other two core members of the band, lead guitarist Mike Mogis and pianist/trumpter Nate Walcott, were consistently impressive throughout the set, and the band was rounded out by excellent percussionists and a synth player.
They drove hard and hit some great numbers in the first half of the set, but things took a turn for the strange about halfway through, with Oberst calling out a song that the rest of the band didn't particularly want to play and was followed by the band and Oberst playing and singing the song rather poorly, drawing it out a few minutes too many. After that, the energy of the set seemed to wane, but things were picked up again as the band closed things out. The best moments of the set were when Oberst and the band played their uptempo, pop-oriented numbers, and when Oberst got to show off his considerable stage presence. Overall, a very enjoyable set. - DH
Photos by Greg Jacquin
Words by Dylan Hume