Caveman Blows New Yorkers Out Of The Water

Caveman live by Liz Rowley

New York – Brooklyn-based indie rock quintet Caveman delivered a firmly memorable performance Sunday afternoon on the sprawling shores of the Atlantic, catching a crowd of city dwellers quite outside their usual habitat.

The concert took place at The Riis Beach Bazaar, a phenomenal venue erected by the masterminds that brought us the Brooklyn Night Bazaar. The managers of the Bazaar have signed a multi-year lease with the Parks Service in the Rockaways, as they scout out the Bazaar’s next permanent location.

The boardwalk-turned-bandshell is a coastal oasis that recreates the artisanal flea market and performance hotspot that, until June 1st, lived on Banker Street near Wythe. The Bazaar’s new home brings a decidedly surf-glam spin to its reputation. And with its many scheduled concert dates, the new Bazaar makes locals an offer that’s difficult to refuse. In the lead up to Caveman’s set, vendors offered an array of food, drinks, artwork and garb to compliment a castaway mindset.

Stripped of their city costumes, New Yorkers wandered barefoot in bathing suits, sipped tropical cocktails, ate fish tacos and BBQ and exhaled a collective sign of escapist relief. The setting was a playground for adults that mimicked the imagined quotidian of West coasters – which is arguably an environmental catharsis most city dwellers are starved for.

Caveman is lead vocalist, guitarist and percussionist Matthew Iwanusa, guitarist Jimmy Carbonetti, vocalist and percussionist Stefan Marolachakis, vocalist and synth master Sam Hopkins and vocalist and bassist Jeff Berrall.

The group released their debut LP, CoCo Beware, in 2011 via Magic Man!/ORG Music label. Their most recent, self-titled, album surfaced in 2013 via Fat Possum Records. The band is currently working on their third studio album.  

The band opened with the lead track from its first album, “A Country’s King Of Dreams.” This is a swirly ballad that’s as percussive as it is sparse. With minimal drums crowding the soundscape, multi-part harmonies backbone the track.

In fact, this band is at its best when it lets vocalizing anchor the track at hand. Caveman proved this fact time and again on Sunday, as they circled through an array of well-loved and unheard tracks. The true testament to Caveman’s musical ability is that, performed live, the many moving vocal parts of each track prove to be as sensational as their recorded counterparts.

Sunday’s performance of “Where’s The Time,” off Caveman’s most recent record, was a notable standout of the sun-drenched afternoon. Yet again, this is a track that leans most heavily on vocal harmonies. But “Where’s The Time” introduces Caveman’s second greatest superpower – emotional intelligence.

“Where’s the time to waste on someone else’s life?” Iwanusa sang with abandon, as sandy New Yorkers in cutoffs sang along at full lung capacity.

Peppered throughout the set were a handful of unreleased tracks. Though little has been shared publicly about Caveman’s forthcoming record, the band hit it out of the park on several of their new tracks, which suggests that their forthcoming LP will be well worth the wait.

“It’s really good to be out here,” Iwanusa said after cycling through a smattering of unreleased material. “I’m from New York and I’ve never been out here.”

“This is a song about this city,” he added, with apparent bliss. “And we are so far out of the city.”

Performed live, “In the City” took on unforeseen gravitas. From Caveman’s vantage point on stage, Manhattan must have looked like Gatsby’s green light over the water, glittering in the golden hour with all its promises and allure. But being removed from something so weighty has a way of inspiring a great deal of retrospective gratitude. And honoring the city from a distance felt both righteous and sincere.

The band closed with “Old Friend,” which is perhaps its most stirring tracks on record. The lyricism, vocalizing and instrumentals perfectly encapsulate the effortlessness of familiar company, and evoke a wordless recognition for the nostalgia old ties arise. Ambient acoustics, forceful guitar strumming and a solid narrative elevate this track to graduated peaks. A choice exit track for this band, Caveman masterfully soundtracked the dipping sun with a burst of sentimental luster.

All told, Sunday’s performance boasted a stellar showing from New Yorkers and an elite delivery from a seriously talented group of musicians. Keep one ear to the ground for news of Caveman’s forthcoming release. And if the opportunity presents itself to catch this band around town in the meantime, don’t think twice.

Photo of Caveman live by Liz Rowley

Liz Rowley

Liz Rowley

Born in Mexico and raised in Toronto, Jerusalem and Chicago by a pair of journalists, Liz comes to with an inherited love of writing. After discovering a niche for herself in music journalism and radio while at Bates College in Maine, she always keeps a running playlist of new music to soundtrack her place in the world. Liz is passionate about helping dedicated, talented musicians gain the exposure they deserve. A recent transplant to Brooklyn from Hawaii, she is plagued by an incurable case of wanderlust and cursed with an affinity for old maps and old things like typewriters and vintage books. She adores photography and running and is very good with plants. Having come of age in Chicago, Wilco speaks to her soul. If she could be anything, she would be a cat in a Murakami novel.
Liz Rowley