Live: Real Estate Comes Home To Webster Hall
Real Estate w/R. Stevie Moore, Andrew Cedermark
Saturday, August 11
Better than: The thousand times I have listened to Real Estate's Days.
In front of shifty blue stage lights on Saturday night, Real Estate keyboardist Jonah Mauer squinted at his bandmate, guitarist Matt Mondanile. One of them had cracked a joke, who knows about what, and both couldn't stop laughing, glancing down at the floor, shaking their heads. Before them stood frontman Martin Courtney, singing with his eyes tightly closed, absorbed in his performance, cocking his ivory Telecaster at almost a 45-degree angle. It was just one of the many moments capturing all of the emotions the New Jersey outfit evokes: Lightheartedness, bliss, nostalgia.
Before "officially" becoming a band a few years ago, Courtney, Mondanile, and bassist Alex Bleeker had played together during high school, covering Weezer and acting like the Strokes. In 2008, fresh out of college, the band released a a string of digital cuts and singles that were stitched together into a debut album. For their follow-up, 2011's Days, the band cleaned the sound up and removed the lo-fi label, producing a swirling collection of earnest-in-a-great-way songs about the life of an average twentysomething from the suburbs. These dudes have written soundtracks for the disgustingly hot and humid summers in the northeast since they were in their teens, so it's no surprise they cracked jokes to one another and breezily played their instruments during a show on a steamy night in the city that inspired them.
The band's sound, which claims some Grateful Dead influences, fit snugly into the creaky New York venue. Following a somewhat pathetic "warm-up" from a stand-up comedian whose name I didn't catch, the group launched into shimmery take of "Green Aisles," one of the most whistle-friendly tracks on Days. Other highlights of the night included a swooping take on "Out of Tune": "You play along to songs written for you," Courtney crooned as the crowd joined him for a strangely appropriate singalong. "The frequency of your inner debate, it was all out of tune." They even treated the crowd to a new song:
Real Estate (Live at Webster Hall, August 11, 2012)
"Thanks for sticking around," Courtney whispered into the mic when the band stumbled out to do their encore. The musicians picked up their instruments for "Suburban Beverage," a cut from their self-titled debut that clearly represents the weirdly charming mundanity of suburban, small-town life with its single, hypnotizing lyric; the listener might zone out, or stare at the wall, as it plays. On Saturday, slowing the tempo as they built a wall of sound around each precise syllable, Real Estate sang together with the crowd in unison, planting a single thought into the minds of the sold-out crowd: "Budweiser Sprite; do you feel all right?"
Critical bias: I have a Real Estate magnet on my fridge.
Overheard: "[Days] is one of those albums I just want to get really drunk to and listen to on the floor."
Random notebook dump: I love a good joke; trying to start the annoying chant, "Is State Real?", as Real Estate's warmup guy did, is not a good joke.