The Dirty Projectors at Subterranean

Dirty Projectors w/ No Kids, The Singleman Affair
Subterranean – Chicago, IL
4/3/08

Dirty Projectors w/ No Kids, The Singleman Affair Subterranean - Chicago, ILBy April, the rainy, bitter cold weather of Chicago gets tiresome, especially among a sold-out crowd of indie kids eagerly awaiting the Dirty Projectors show. But the cozy, warmly lit, bookstore-ish feel of Subterranean provided sweet relief (as well as couches), which suited the asymmetrical and stripped-down sounds, and was conducive to the vocal-led, harmony-heavy music of the Dirty Projectors, as well as opener, Singleman Affair (The No Kids, not so much).

Dirty Projectors w/ No Kids, The Singleman Affair Subterranean - Chicago, ILThe priority standing section was upstairs, leaning against the balcony railing, which, for the night’s less-confrontational rock, made sense. The show, because of the venue, crowd, view (and, of course, band), reinforced the very concept of going to a shared space to witness music being created. Singleman Affair was lead by Dan Schneider, who played seated, accompanying cool voice melodies and bluesy prophetic lyrics with soft acoustic guitar strumming (and nice whistling), with subtle back-up singing and rhythm-keeping percussion (not the most fun band to play back-up in, but cool music).

A quarter after 10:00, after the 35-minute Single Affair set, No Kids took stage with two keyboardists and a drummer. A fairly big portion of the audience seemed to be familiar with material from No Kids’ debut, Come into My House, and those who weren’t seemed impressed by the stuttering piano pop and falsetto singing of frontman Nick Krgovich. The last song of their eight song, 30-minute set was the single, “Beaches All Closed,” which by the audience’s roar of applause proved to be the favorite, but it wasn’t the best. I find the No Kids questionable. Their songs often lack substance, they never seem genuine, and I can never place my finger on what band they are mimicking or ripping off; the artist that comes through in “Beaches” is Justin Timberlake, which you can interpret however you want. Granted, there were just as many cool moments as the hard-to-stomach ones, but I was still struck by how well they were received and how much the Dirty Projectors’ director, Dave Longstreth, enjoyed them.

A Thax Douglas poem brought to stage the Dirty Projectors, who began their set with “Spray Paint.” The set list had been laid out before hand, so audiences near the front knew (if they peaked) what songs would come. While certain tunes, “Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie,” “Depression,” “Rise Above,” and the new song highlighted their set, it wasn’t a matter of individuality; the performance was one cumulative piece. The preview of this show from FlavorPill called the DP, “One of the few experimental bands that are actually pleasing to the ears,” and that held true. Instead of sifting through distorted nonsense or waiting for the cool parts of songs to come, the alarming and atypical transitions, bridges, and song breakdowns were often the thrill. Dave, a lefty who played a right-handed guitar upside down, is equally impressive on guitar and singing. The show catered to his guitar playing, and unfortunately didn’t get to my favorites, the vocally fueled, “Naked We Made It,” “Obscure Wisdom,” and “Off Science Hill,” probably because these songs are primarily solo, and not tracks from the music-oriented Rise Above. For the set, Dave played with his 2008 band, Brian, Amber, and Angel; the girls were sick with fevers, causing Dave to allude to the Foreigner song, “Hot-Blooded,” (“I got a fever of 103”). The one song encore, however, “Police Story,” featured solo Dave, and functioned like an a cappella, which nicely capped off a pure, sincere night of music.

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