New York – Brooklyn’s Silent Barn is not your typical concert space. Part art space, part living space, the Silent Barn looks more like a frat house than a music venue—except instead of Kappa Sigs, the rooms are inhabited by full-blooded Brooklyn hipsters. The walls are painted with sprawling murals that jump from one aesthetic to another, but would all be fit to grace the bottom of a skateboard deck. A “zine share” populates a bookcase in the back corner and giant color changing orbs light the room. It’s a far cry from the likes of Terminal 5 or Irving Plaza, but a perfect fit for Brooklyn’s experimental pop band Bellows.
The quartet is just as quirky as the space. With baseball caps, bleached hair and flannels, the band crowded on to the stage. They look more like visual art majors than band mates, but with instruments in hand they defy the stereotypes. With every song, Bellows filled the space with their breathy, half-spoken vocals and crashing drums. In the center stood Oliver Kalb, the band’s founding member. Kalb began the band as a recording project, self-releasing As If To Say I Hate Daylight in 2011. For his next release, Blue Breathˆ(due later this month), Gabby Smith, Felix Walworth and Henry Crawford were added, however, the line-up changes depending on his tour mates, whom often fill-in.
On the heels of this release, Bellows embarked on a tour with eskimeaux, playing Silent Barn with Ian, Florist and Littlefoot as openers. The bands aren’t label mates in the traditional sense, but rather, belong to the Epoch Collective. (Small Wonder, Sharpless and Told Slant also belong to the group.) The majority of the band members at Silent Barn that night had some allegiance to the Collective and lent their talents to each set. Like-minded musicians, multi-instrumentalists and clearly friends, they handed guitars back and forth and swapped places at the ramshackled-together drum set over the course of the night.
The opening track off Blue Breath, “For Rock Dove,” was a haunting, but bright point in the evening. With Kalb whispering into the mic and eskimeaux’s Gabrielle Smith singing along from her place at the keyboard, the song swelled and sunk again with the crowd of indie girls and guys in black cut-off jeans nodding along. Told Slant’s Felix Walworth played the drums with excellent precision, slamming away with almost robotic exactitude. The slightly more chaotic “Funny Things” was better live than recorded. “Yanguang (Dripping Flesh Down Through My Thighs)” from the band’s previous release, brought back a younger Bellows if only for a song. The song, clearly an audience favorite, sounded like an older, less complex release when compared to the songs before and after it. Still, Kalb beautifully brought its simplicity to life. “See Bright, Be Fine” was the most standard indie song on the set list. It’s the song that would cause a passerby to look in through Silent Barn’s large glass window (and they did) and have a listen. The less experimental, dark little song spotlighted Kalb’s vocals as well as his lyrics.
The song was also available on cassette tape at the merch table. The band brought several old-fashioned suitcases full of tapes and various other wares to sell and up their hipster cred. (This further supports the theory that Bellows was a perfect fit for the space.) Not only did the band fit on the tiny platform stage and fill the small room with their delicate sound, they also seemed keenly in tune to the aesthetic of the place. The band was entirely in its element all night, whether jamming on stage, lounging in Silent Barn’s outdoor space or carrying gear back and forth for the Collective. Bellows is a band worth seeing, but doubly so if the gig is in what seems like their natural environment.
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