Efterklang and Nightlands - Bowery Ballroom - 3/23/13
Better Than: Possibly anything I saw at South by Southwest.
Danish collective Efterklang came to the Bowery Ballroom on Saturday night bearing gifts. "We asked people on our tour what they wanted to say to New York," frontman Casper Clausen announced, pulling some handwritten letters from his suit jacket's inside pocket. There was a stamped letter from Tara in Minneapolis and a postcard from someone who missed his New York friend's "monkey noises." Then, he pulled out a winner. "This one is for 'any girl who wants to date a nice Oklahoma boy,'" he read, showing the audience the accompanying wallet-sized portrait. "This is the new dating. It's better than this Internet thing."
Or maybe it's Efterklang that's better than this mp3 thing. Listening to them on Spotify after seeing them live is like eating test tube meat after a steak at Peter Luger. Without sweeping lights tailored for every song, the bassist's Night at the Roxbury head-bobbing, and the awed silence after soprano Katinka Fogh Vindelev's solos, Efterklang on record just sounds like your standard classical-influenced art-pop. But in person, well. Efterklang restores faith, lifts spirits, pumps fists, and even upstages the Met's Wordless Music Orchestra and the Danish National Chamber Orchestra. A random person in the audience probably put it best when he yelled "FUCKING AMAZING!" between songs.
Dave Hartley, bassist and guitarist in the War On Drugs, opened the show with his solo project Nightlands. He literally dreamed up the band, recording musical ideas that occurred to him while he slept. They became Nightlands' debut, Forget the Mantra, and the result can be entrancing to the point of soporific. The band began their set as they do their sophomore record, Oak Island, by summoning Simon and Garfunkel for the multipart harmonies of "Time & Place". The lyrics-- "I'd like to invite you/ For just a little while/ To a place I used to go/ When I was only 17"-- also seem to invite the listener into an idyllic dream-like world that may or may not have existed at one time.
Wispy keyboardist Eliza Hardy Jones provided one of the best performances of the set. She outlined each word with the dedication of a speech therapist and made sure to send blissful, encouraging smiles toward her bandmates between sips of whiskey. The other gold star goes to Hartley and his crisp, compact guitar work. Even when he got emotional reminiscing about this would be the last night of drinking Efterklang's alcohol, his axe cut through the haze with his WOD riffs' easy power. That, and powerful bass from the Roland JP-800, kept Nightlands' deconstructed shoegaze from floating too close to easy listening.
Then Efterklang snapped everyone to attention with the revelatory drum clap of "Hollow Mountain." In a single sound after only 30 seconds onstage, Efterklang was already more exciting than they had ever been to me before. (It may have also been the visual effect of so many dapper Danes on the stage at once.)