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Friday, 28 June 2013 15:27

Concert review: Yeasayer (with Reptar) leave sold-out crowd discombobulated at the Firebird, Thursday, June 27

Concert review: Yeasayer (with Reptar) leave sold-out crowd discombobulated at the Firebird, Thursday, June 27
Written by Blair Stiles

Yeasayer and opening act Reptar offered up a mix of sounds and rhythms to a joyously discombobulated, sold-out crowd at the Firebird on Thursday night.

The swelling crowd was backed against the sound booth before Reptar's opening set began. One had to visually trace the outskirts of the Firebird's geography to find a prime spot. As luck would have it, some pockets of young college student types had begun to fray. We snuck underneath their loose stitches to the third row in the nick of time. Reptar frontman Graham Ulciny popped his voice into multiple octaves per verse with the same pressing bubbliness of his work on "Body Faucet." I visualized the texts I would receive from friends commenting on their regret about not making it to the Reptar/Yeasayer polyrhythmic palooza.

Reptar brought its sound into the live spectrum by adding a horn section to fill in the plinking electro-beats on "Body Faucet." A trumpeter, a saxophonist and a trombonist bopped along to "Houseboat Babies" with choreographed dances. Ulciny gave the name of the saxophonist, but with ears filled with the gauze of a caterwauling audience, all I could make out was "Walter." It was Walter whose horn's bell swallowed its microphone and tore into a raspy solo in a pitch not unlike the Reptar-loving Rugrats protagonist Tommy Pickles. With William Kennedy's Yamaha keyboards stacked like bunk beds in the corner, Reptar rounded out its horn section with keys tuned to the saccharine jangle of children's instruments. Reptar's members shivered and shook in short, propulsive bursts while they played. The crowd followed suit as, toward the end of the set, the PBR-guzzling groovers began to shake their wiggles out too.

Reptar's set was 30 minutes. My plus-one was floored by this but acknowledged that Yeasayer was due to head north to Michigan for a gig at the Electric Forest Festival. Despite the need for speed, Yeasayer played for an hour and a half. They banged out 15 songs that batted back and forth between thumping party joints, "2080," and emotional nosedives, "O.N.E."

As he sipped a magic elixir from his stemmed glass, Yeasayer bassist Ira Wolf Tuton ran two cables out on his instrument into a pedal board that looked more like my father's toolbox than a series of modifiers. Tuton's bass metamorphosed into an armada of disparate noises and sonic deliciousness.

Leaving traditional bass tones behind, Tuton experimented with futuristic, robotic coos and striking guitar-like tones. Several times he held lead over guitarist Anand Wilder and confused the hell out of us. Captivated by Yeasayer's layered, jittery beats, we could not figure out why Wilder's fingers did not match what we thought was an electric guitar fluttering from the speakers.

During "Blue Paper," which is sung by Wilder, singer Chris Keating went to work on his Maschine sample pad with a drum stick. While Keating beat Easter-colored buttons, Wilder's falsetto had the sweetness of the Georgia peaches referenced by Reptar's Ulciny earlier in the show.

Like Ulciny, who spoke directly to the audience about Reptar's hometown, Yeasayer's Keating found time to wax on his band's heritage. After "Fingers Never Bleed," an audience member, presumably discombobulated by a litany of illegal substances, told Keating that the band played "Devil and the Deed" incorrectly, and then told Keating that it was a bad cover.

With the perfect amount of sass, Keating replied, "I didn't cover that, I wrote that! We do covers of our own songs! Written by a 25-year-old me. A younger me. More tumescent."

The ground beneath us vibrated from our collective applause and laughter.

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