When Caveman headlines (and sells out) Bowery Ballroom, the stage becomes a cave. Before playing a single note they set the mood with a fog machine, spooky lighting, and a projection screen with the band’s name in Misfits typeface against a skull. It was a bit Halloween-esque, but when they began their set with “Easy Water,” looking like shadowy figures with instruments in a cave, the scene was set.
They created noise and bent notes through the fog, and then launch into a new jam. The Brooklyn-based five-piece have managed to create sounds that reflect their city. They’ve largely been labeled as chamber-pop, but there are plenty of post-punk and post-rock elements in there as well, with varying levels of intensity and complexity. They succeed in balancing it all with a strong melody and ambiance, and they look completely natural the whole way through. Their sound may also be helped by the fact that guitarist Jimmy Carbonetti, who runs Cobra Guitars in Manhattan, custom created the axe and bass that he, singer Matt Iwanusa, and bassist Jeff Berrall play. Works of art unto themselves, it’s like the craftsmanship of the instruments boosts the musicianship translating through them that much more.
Matthew Iwanusa of Caveman
Caveman ended on another new jam, before the inevitable encore. The band came back on stage with a whole drumline of percussionists to resounding applause, and really let it rip on the dreamy “Great Life.” Being that these guys are Brooklyn boys, Iwanusa had to ask the crowd if anyone knew if The Knicks had won that night. They hadn’t, but Caveman did.
Elise Commathe of Au Palais
Before the stage became a cave, the electronic London via Toronto duo Au Palais tried to make it a dance floor. Their songs gradually unfolded with beats and layered rhythms, with Elise Commathe’s smooth vocals floating on top. Their initial cold, aloof vibe gradually warmed up as well, but it never felt like they really hit their stride. Their cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “Some Velvet Morning” came off a bit awkward, when the harmonizing vocals sounded slightly out of tune. Au Palais’ original material was much better, and their performance was more about soaking in the beats than commanding focused attention.
The intro to this whole night was started off with Heaven, who, if it weren’t for the fact that the members have some credible history, might come off as your average indie garage band who makes you feel like you could form a band just as easily and be up on stage too. Their cover of The Kinks’ “See My Friends,” was nice to walk in on, with a slightly grungier touch to it. The members are all in or have been in other bands like Ambulance LTD, Swervedriver, and Fan-Tan, so this is being touted as their “shiny new collaboration.”
Caveman heads to London and France for a handful of dates; track their upcoming shows on Facebook. Au Palais are back to London, so as they put it, you can either go there to see them or wait a few months. Heaven will be back at Bowery Ballroom on February 18th, opening for Young Magic. You can listen to a bunch of their tunes on their Facebook.
Photos (c) by Kelly Knapp