CULTURE WATCH: Yeasayer — Musical Mad Scientists

By Brandon Hook 11-26-2012

There are some artists whose work leaves you walking away thinking, “How in the world did they do that?” The Yeasayer performance at the 9:30 Club in D.C. on Nov. 15 was one such performance. 

The psychedelic electro pop group hailing from Brooklyn pumped out a wholesome set of favorites from its older releases as well as songs from its recent — and divisive — album Fragrant World, all to the backdrop of what looked like a chunk of the Epcot ball from Disney World.

But the elaborate — and frequently trippy — back drop and light show seamlessly augmented the synth-laden songs, morphed electric guitar, and catchy hooks. It was truly and audiovisual experience. Had their performance included some neon gummy worms or something, it would have engaged nearly every sense.

The crowd was especially into Yeasayer classics. The mass of mostly twenty somethings bounced up and down with hands lifted — I almost thought I was at a Hillsong United concert — singing along to “Ambling Alp” from 2010’s Odd Blood and "Tightrope" from Dark Was the Night, a compilation of tunes raising funds and awareness for HIV/AIDS.

“O.N.E.,” another crowd favorite, finds guitarist and vocalist Anand Wilder singing about giving up alcohol like leaving a girlfriend. But the hugely popular song, while still good, seemed less inspired in a live setting. It came off a little reworked and stripped down, and may have become one of those songs that the band doesn’t really like as much but crowds can’t get enough of.

While their older albums may contain a more diverse amount of influences than Fragrant World, performances of newer songs like “Henrietta” and “The Devil and the Deed” held their own in comparison to their older material. Quite frankly, they sounded really good live.

While some fans may have come out only to hear songs like “O.N.E.” or “Ambling Alp,” performances of new songs may change their opinions on Fragrant World. This was certainly the case with the single “Longevity,” which didn’t quite hold my attention on the album but live was, as Chris Keating said while introducing it, “just an awesome song.” Another single, “Henrietta,” also surprised me live.

Overall, it was a solid performance and a positive experience. If ever considering some fun little danceish pop music, say yes to Yeasayer.

Brandon Hook is the Online Assistant at Sojourners.


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