For both Destroyer and Sandro Perri, anxiety is an aesthetic. The nervy, bookish vibe also creates a rare instance of fans reading before a concert (the one book I saw on my literary sleuthing was The Great Gatsby). For these musicians, anxiety fuels exploration; it lets them jam an album’s worth of ideas into a song and a particular lyric, and it works quite well on both fronts.
Perri opened the show, and while his awkwardness never controlled him it also managed to never let him be truly at ease.
From the get-go, his experimental folk fed off of his driving, nervous energy. Perri was playing Boston for the second time, after an appearance at Tufts last year, and he seemed pleasantly surprised by the turnout. “Sometimes there’s only about five people here,” he said early on, half kidding. This time around, the critical acclaim surrounding Impossible Spaces—it was included in Pitchfork’s “Top 50 Albums of 2011”—made the occasion a tad more momentous.
Perri’s band was as eclectic as his songwriting.
The drummer combined a conventional kit with a sampler, banging on electronic pads to add beats to his rhythmic mix. The synth player occasionally made bird noises. Perri’s interstellar jazz guitar made it all fit together like a cockeyed work by M.C. Escher. His set was dreamy and genre-bending—it’s rare for an opener to deliver such a smoothly powerful performance. The last two tunes, “Changes” and “Wolfman,” shredded away any of Perri’s lingering awkwardness. When he left the stage, the ambient serenity of the songs seeped into the crowd, leaving behind a wake of blissed out indie rockers.
After a prolonged period of abstract noise, Dan Bejar and his Canadian cohorts from Vancouver took the stage.
His intense eyes and trio of Heinekens announced his presence.
He crooned the title track from Your Blues a cappella at first, letting his distinctive nasal yelp fill the room without distraction. His band joined in, setting an inspired set into motion.
Much of the set list centered on Kaputt, Bejar’s latest record. Highlights like “Savage Night At The Opera” and “Chinatown” featured the sax and trumpet player heavily, creating a sound that mixed New Order danceability with a free jazz version of Kenny G. The sax player stole the show, adding jazz flutes and electric clarinets to his arsenal of toys.
Throughout the night, Bejar was a master of concealment.
Whenever he wasn’t singing, he would duck down and disappear, either sipping his beers or closing his eyes. Much like Dylan hiding behind his harmonica in between verses, Bejar used the crouch to avoid the spotlight when he wasn’t adding to the sound. He didn’t want undeserved recognition.
Although he had played “Looter’s Follies” off of Rubies earlier, I had been craving the title track all night. Bejar must have known it was my birthday because he busted it out to close the set. When Bejar sang, “She’s been known to appreciate the elegance of an empty room,” he seemed to be speaking to the Gatsby reader.
Bejar and Perri manage to transform awkward stage presences into something cosmic. Walking out onto Comm Ave, I felt serenely invigorated. The Canadian indie wizards provided a much-needed respite from the heat wave, cooling me down like a second shower.