Saturday, June 4, 2011

8. Spookeasy at Bryan Street Tavern, 6/3/11

8. Spookeasy, at Bryan Street Tavern.

Is there an echo in here?

So after the Beatles broke up, we went down to Bryan Street Tavern's performance room, where along with about 43 others --- a small but appreciative crowd --- we heard cleverly-named local act Spookeasy.  (We like BST.  No cover, good drinks, spacious outdoor area with giant Jenga.)

Spookeasy is a quartet --- drums (by Tom Bridwell), bass, guitar, with a female vocalist also on the keys.  

We deliberately call frontwoman Stephanie Burns a vocalist, because she doesn't come across as a singer the way "American Idol" would define it.  She approaches the lyrics in a breathy, chanting kind of way, aided by plenty of reverb and echo in the mix. 

Their original material was largely informed by two-chord '60s style power pop, layered with '80s keys and effects.  They also played a chugging, swampy cover of some song --- we didn't catch it --- by Austin band the Black Angels, and broke into a bass-heavy surfy spy riff, covering a Finch song.

R thought this was the best Tom Bridwell performance he'd seen --- out of his element but holding the beat with ease.

The songs alternated between slow-fast tempo, and were loud, short, and to the point.  Traces of Siouxsie and the Banshees, or the Cramps.  Amid the raucous noise, Stephanie gave off a sort of unintended sensuality, clearly the star of the show.  She drawled, "why, thanks, guys," several times at the applause between songs, as if among a few friends (actually, maybe she was; the crowd was clearly familiar with their material).  But she doesn't totally command the spotlight --- she often walked to the back of the stage and knelt down for something, apparently unaware of or unconcerned with the awkward break in the show this caused.

In her own way, she's almost captivating.  Almost.  We wondered what she would sound like without all the effects, and they were laid on thick.  When she spoke between songs, the echo was distracting.  N wanted her to embrace the Pixies influence and scream a bit instead of only chant; R thought the band would benefit from her embracing the Siouxie image and dressing for the spotlight.

In sum: Our feelings for Spookeasy are hard to sum up.  If we're rating them purely on talent, the band is good; but we weren't very entertained.  In fact, we were slightly bored.  It wasn't terrible, but we found ourselves listing things we didn't like about the band rather than sitting back and enjoying the show.  We just didn't come away with a favorable impression, what with the layers of effects and the simple slow-fast beats.  On the other hand, we'd see them again, if only to see how or if they change as a band.

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