Monday, June 28, 2010

Show Review: Bear In Heaven

Because I am a pathetic hack, I have no photos from the show. All you need know is their mustaches were full, very very full.

Sunday, June 27, 2010 at The Space:

There's nothing like going to a show beat down from a weekend's worth of ass-busting labor, especially when you are fully aware that you'll be getting up for work at the butt crack of dawn Monday morning. Shaki Presents' Sunday night series was one of the rare excuses that could make someone like myself say fuck it and go out anyway. Bear in Heaven happens to be another. Showing up to find out the photographer didn't make it was no fun though. Missing Wess Meets West was not fun either. One of those guys once told me that they are going to open for U2 on the moon in the near future, so maybe I'll catch them then. I'm also guilty of missing the first half of Lobisomem's set, too, since I was loitering outside, joking around with everyone about dickheaded booking agencies, how much moths suck, and stealing The Space's owner's Dodge Dart.

Maybe the heat and humidity kept the show-goers at home. Who knows. But there was around fifty or so heads there at the most. It's tough when an audience is so sparse mainly because it leaves a live band without enough crowd-created energy to feed off of. Maybe this is even more true at The Space, a place that has a reputation for causing awkwardness for the crowds and bands alike. I wonder if it's also the fact that the booze-less-ness of The Space leaves everyone too damn self-conscious to enjoy the show. Us uptight hipsters are socially retarded, remember.

But what hindered Bear in Heaven was not the thin audience, it was that their live sound did not get its due. The room and The Space's PA were the reasons, which seem totally unsuited for bands that, instead of overdriving their amps or are intimate folk acts, rely primarily on running direct. Depending on where you stand in the room, it can be a completely different show. Getting too close to the stage means losing the fuller sound you get at the back of the room. And even then you kinda need to find a sweet spot, which was incidentally found to be closer to the merch table than over by the stairway to the bathroom.

Bear in Heaven live should be felt in your guts. They have a huge sound and are known for putting on intense performances. All limitations aside, they did sound pretty good, especially during the second half of their set. The smaller, more restrained performance turned into an opportunity to pay close attention to the band's musicianship. As a trio, they still achieve what they did as a four piece on Beast Rest Forth Mouth. The drummer is a fucking octopus, and I actually started feeling sorry for the sweat-drenched guy since most every song requires nonstop flailing. Guitarist Adam Wills might be a little underused, but I couldn't tell exactly who was making what sounds since they all intertwine so well to begin with. For all I know he was holding everything together. Jon Philpot uses an interesting setup of midi-interfaced knob tweak-age and a block of stomp boxes at his feet. His vocal tone was straight off the record, and it was great to hear him belt out the coda of Beast in Peace as intensely as it is on the recording. Jon and Adam share guitar and bass duties, switching between songs almost as often as Sebadoh does. It's one of my favorite parts of the band - they use all that electronic gear with the pretty blinking lights, but still use the basics just as much.

The two surprises in their set were an older song that they revamped to play as a three-piece but said they'd likely never play again. I didn't catch the name of it. The second surprise was what they closed with - a cover of the Lindstrøm & Christabelle track Lovesick which is off of Real Life Is No Cool. Short of that, their set was all the best from Beast Rest Forth Mouth.

Even it wasn't the show hoped for, Bear in Heaven impressed.


Anonymous said...

I don't usually comment on stuff like this because I am a very secure person and have successfully kept The Space open (with the help of a ton of amazing people) for close to 8 years now.

However after a few of your reviews have been really down on what we do here, it has left me feeling somewhat uncomfortable with your lack of respect for us. In the same breath I am thankful that you exist and you guys are doing a good job of covering stuff in CT. I have been part of the CT scene since the early 90s and have seen the entire Scene change over countless times. Folks like you help keep the excitement for the scene alive.

The Space does not have Alcohol so that people of all ages can come to ANY show here. Adding alcohol would compromise some of the basic reasons why I decided to open an all ages, alcohol free venue in the first place. Furthermore due to state laws it would be nearly impossible to add beer and wine to our menu and keep the place all ages at the same time. Puritans still run state government in CT. In addition not being able to drink at a show is a silly reason to not attend a great show.

The Space DOES NOT cause awkwardness for anyone, in-fact all of the staff here (myself included) go out of our way to make this place feel warm and inviting. Honestly if you feel awkward here, that awkwardness is something that YOU bring with YOU. I can't expect everyone to like what we have created and what we set out to do...however if you are about promoting and lifting up the CT music scene... then stop degrading a venue that has gone out of it's way (for years) to unite the scene, give young people a platform, and bring in bands and people from all walks of life and from all over the map.

Bear In Heaven arrived 2 hours late for sound check (15 minutes before doors were scheduled to open) If they had been here on time for their sound check the sound would have been "what you had expected". So don't blame that on us, Our PA is maintained well and run by awesome people who actually care about bands, people and music

As far as the "sparse crowd" is concerned - everything that could have been done with promotion was done from our camp and we even had help from our friends from Manic Productions.

On a side note I would love to see an uptight hipster try and steal my Dodge Dart. It's standard - 3 on the tree with nearly as much integrity in it's bones as the venue that it was parked in front of on Sunday night.

Respectfully - Steve Rodgers - Founder / Director of The Space

CT Indie said...

Thanks for taking the time to say all of this, Steve. Any criticisms about The Space that have appeared on this website are not due to a lack of respect for you, the venue or our music community. No need to justify not having alcohol at The Space. In fact, this review was poking fun at people that cannot enjoy a show sober. I was suggesting exactly what you are saying: that perhaps the reason The Space has the reputation it does has more to do with the nature of the audience. True or not, both the venue and the audience share some responsibility, and people will argue over to what degree all they want no matter how you or I feel about it. All my joking aside, the fact is that when people aren’t half in the bag, they will end up paying better attention to details about their environment.

Please understand that we want contributors to this site to be able to express their opinions openly. The local scene is improving, and consequently getting to be more and more demanding. If criticisms about The Space are cropping up, it's because what The Space has been doing all these years genuinely matters. There is absolutely no reason to believe The Space is being degraded by this website.

My technical complaints about the sound have nothing to do with the people that run the board or manage the gear. Whether or not the band was late, I think it's fair to say that Bear in Heaven is one of those cases where a more expansive and louder sound environment would enhance their performance. I've seen all variety of shows at The Space, both loud and quiet, and I have even played on that very stage more than once myself. I also know how challenging running sound can be, since I have run sound, too. So, if things didn't work for Bear in Heaven in my opinion, I might have been overly critical. But I stand by what I said. I just don’t think things worked out in this particular case.

Also, my complaint about the lack of people there has nothing to do with anything The Space did or didn't do. I interviewed the band, promoted the show more than most, and even mentioned this show while I was talking up the local scene on NPR on The Needle Drop back in mid-June. Not seeing enough people there bummed me out because of my investment in promoting the show.

Standing up for everything you have done for the local community is something I greatly respect, and I hope you understand this response is above all else in support of that.

As much as your Dart brings a smile to my face, I have to tell you that I was once at a cookout where an older nerdy engineer dude had a pristine '67 Dart in his garage - fully restored and with modifications that, he claimed, let him go up to 6,000 RPMs with no trouble at all. She was a beauty.


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