GIVERS, Pepper Rabbit, and 1, 2, 3
June 26, 2011
7th St. Entry, Minneapolis
Last night, the young Louisiana pop quintet GIVERS rolled in to Minneapolis for their first show in the city, and it would be understatement to say that they took the crowd at the 7th St. Entry by storm. The group contains many of the trappings of a blog buzz band - headlining tour behind one album's worth of songs, early appearance on Jimmy Fallon, praise from the right blogs - but this crew plays with a tightness, depth, and musical connection rarely seen in such buzz bands. Put simply, it's easy to see why the Dirty Projectors and Ra Ra Riot have taken them out on tour recently.
Openers 1, 2, 3 and Pepper Rabbit were impressive in their own regards, but GIVERS stole the show from the moment they hit the stage with their sheer energy and enthusiasm. They had the crowd eating out of their hands and half of the room dancing by the time their second song ended.
GIVERS' brand of pop is hard to pin down - their sound has a definite experimental edge with some interesting keyboard and synth effects, but the quintet also shows an interest in some of the more worldly rhythms and sounds recently channeled by bands like Vampire Weekend. For instance, "Words" dips in to a 12/8-sounding groove near the song's end, a feel commonly used in much African pop music (and also used by Vampire Weekend on "White Sky"). Their recently-released album In Light showcases the numerous influences at play in their work, moving from dancefloor-ready Talking Heads grooves to the aforementioned worldly sounds with ease.
And then there was the band's use of thick, varied instrumental textures. One of the band's main singers, Tiffany Lamson alternated between an electric ukulele, a percussion rig complete with a glockenspiel, and tambourine. On top of all that, Lamson sang in an impressive husky voice that complimented GIVERS' other singer Taylor Guarisco well. Guarisco mostly played guitar, but he switched with bass player Josh LeBlanc for a few tunes. Finally, keyboard player Nick Stephan seemed to be the jack of all trades: in addition to coaxing dense sounds out of his keyboards, he also played both tenor saxophone and flute. The jaunty flute interludes on "Atlantic" and his aggressive sax playing (with an effects pedal, nonetheless) on the very last tune were definite highlights.
The funny part about going to see young bands like GIVERS is the relatively shorter set lengths. It's tough to only tour behind one album, and you got the feeling that after the crowd-prompted encore, the band had actually run out of songs. This isn't meant to be a slight to the band in any way, but rather an acknowledgement of the difficulties of the young band hype machine known as the Internet.
However, GIVERS completely sidestepped the common pitfalls that buzz bands so easily fall into. They displayed a depth of musicianship and familiarity with their material that can be rare in even older bands. The quintet didn't stick to the blueprint set by their new album either: many of the songs contained new intros or outros, and some of the rhythmic changes within songs sped up or slowed down, depending on what the band felt. "Ceiling of Plankton" had a new percussion-heavy introduction, and the half-time interludes throughout "Meantime" morphed in speed and feel as the song progressed. The band played with an unbridled enthusiasm for their songs (which can sometimes translate to "sloppy" in lesser groups), and you got the feeling that they were taking the songs where they felt them going, and not simply trying to re-create the album-listening experience.
GIVERS'gave the crowd everything they had, and the crowd returned it, creating a great energy in the room throughout their entire set. Guarisco felt it too, remarking at one point, "Minneapolis! This is... unexpected!" Having never played in town, it's a testament to GIVERS' strength as a live band that they had most of the crowd shaking their hips by the end of the night.
If you missed them this time, try looking for them next door in the First Avenue Mainroom next time they're in town; GIVERS undoubtedly have the potential to be playing there soon.
Personal Bias: I only heard this band a few weeks ago on Jimmy Fallon, and have since become a huge fan.
The Crowd: Hip-shaking indie rock show plus some in-the-know older folks
Overheard in the crowd: "No, how about nine more? Well, I would settle for eight too" -- in response to Guarisco's announcement that the band only had two songs left.
Random notebook dump: Singer/guitarist/bassist Taylor Guarisco ~ Michael Jordan? Both have the tongue thing down.
Does everyone in this band play like six instruments? Not fair.
I would not be surprised if this band has a "hands in" huddle and cheer before they go onstage.
Saw You First
In My Eyes
Ceiling of Plankton
Up Up Up
Talking Heads cover
Wanna Want It (?)