Monday, July 12, the long awaited Real Estate, Kurt Vile, Sri Aurobindo and Lands & Peoples took place at the Ottobar in Remington, Baltimore. Daniel, Anna, and Kevin were all in attendance and each took a turn reviewing a different part of the show, which turned out to be a great, if not lengthy, one.
The most commonly thought of thing that came to my mind when Baltimore band Lands & Peoples came on stage was Grizzly Bear, and with their soaring harmonies, old school electric piano lines, and joking reference to their wish for a song to be in a Volkswagen commercial, they did nothing to prove otherwise. Their short set was overall very enjoyable, and one of the many pieces of merchandise did include their split tour cassette with INEVERYROOM.
The star of the opening bands was fellow Baltimore band Sri Aurobindo, a band which has been described by their label, Friends Records, as a “healthy dose of Amon Düül II and The Doors,” which seemingly fits their drone-y psychedelica to a perfect fit. Their album Cave Painting had its release that night, with the first 250 coming in translucent green (which I of course opted for). Their raving wah-wah guitar sections and lo-fi synthesizer funk created a wonderfully great time for all in the room, which was well near capacity.
Going into the show, I knew very little about Kurt Vile. I have two of his albums in my iTunes collection (2008’s Constant Hitmaker and 2009’s God is Saying This to You) that I attempted to listen to once, but never made it through. Obviously I was at the show to see Real Estate do the Real Estate thing. But that does not mean I was at all unimpressed with Kurt Vile’s set, despite not being able to name a single song.
The set up of Vile and his band was something that intrigued me greatly. Two guitars, a drummer, an occasional drum machine, and a harpist. It seemed minimalist, as one of Vile’s guitar straps was simply a piece of string, but the sound the band was able to put out was full and entrancing. Watching him sing with his gravelly, low voice was entrancing, and his fellow musicians were on as well, hitting every note it seemed like. Without knowing any songs going in, I’m definitely encouraged enough by the performance to go back through and re-listen to the Vile I already have, as well as listen to even more, especially his new Square Shells EP.
Real Estate, the band I was there to see, lived up to my expectations although the band did not quite live up to the performance I saw in March at the Rock N Roll Hotel in Washington, D.C. New songs like “Art Vandelay” and another untitled track were extremely tight and showcased the growth of the band. But the band just didn’t seem to be in sync at other parts of the show, especially during “Beach Comber,” where the second half of the song, right after guitarist Matt Mondanile and drummer Etienne Duguay shotgunned Budweisers, just seemed a little off tempo.
But besides this, Real Estate is a band of four extremely talented and capable musicians. Lead singer Martin Courtney did not seem to be “all there” during the show and his voice was weaker than it was in March, but his guitar chops are still there and he has a way of connecting with the audience members to convey the suburban feelings present in his songs. Mondanile can flat out shred at times and his vocals on “Art Vandelay” are a nice changeup from Courtney’s. Duguay has a way of making all the fills sound easy. And finally, bassist Alex Bleeker plods along nicely, laying the foundation for Courtney and Mondanile’s riffs. Bleeker showed off his humorous side as well, attempting to play “Atlantic City” while balanced on one leg. Unfortunately, he was unnsuccessful.
While Real Estate did not perform at the same level they did on their tour with Woods in March, the band is still a great live band and should continue to be in the future. It’s a rare band where all the musicians are skilled, and that fusion creates great music and great shows.
I first saw Real Estate almost exactly a year ago to the day, in an opening slot for Wavves’ big comeback show, and ever since, I’ve been following their ascent to champions of the idealized suburban lifestyle. Thanks to tons of blog love and their sun-washed jams, they have set off on their very own headlining tour after a few jaunts up and down the East Coast playing shows with their Woodsist labelmates and New Jersey brethren. Their return to Baltimore showcased their tried and true blissful tunes that they have down to a near perfect science and had the crowd entranced (except for the dancing girl behind me who punched me in the back). The set was solid and nearly flawless (although there was the runaway outro to “Beach Comber” that Daniel noted) and we got to hear the three newer songs (“All Out of Tune”, “Art Vandelay”, the other one about putting your shoes on) that send Real Estate’s sound into Pavement territory. They closed out the set with the bittersweet “Younger Than Yesterday,” a personal favorite that I had not heard them play live yet.
They themselves have a youthful exuberance onstage characterized by bassist Alex Bleeker and guitarist Matt Mondanile bopping around and drummer Etienne Duguay’s exaggerated but effortless drumming style (while dressed in swim trunks…what beach aesthetic?) while frontman Martin Courtney keeps them all anchored with his calm presence. It was nice to see Real Estate in the summer, the season that most believe their music was meant for (although trust me, it’s great no matter the weather) but I missed some of the celebratory feeling of their show with Woods in March. Maybe we were just witnessing a post-SXSW, end-of-tour shindig that time, and I had been spoiled by the epic collaborative jam session and crowd surfing. But to their credit, the boys have come a long way and as long as they keep combing the sands across America, they’ll keep winning fans with their sunny riffs and laid-back vibes.
And the best merch award goes to Real Estate: Tote bag, acid-washed by Martin Courtney himself and koozies!