Occasionally Akudama tried to venture out of their comfort zone, with mixed success. A few songs had a weird soul-ish vibe that didn’t quite feel right. But even during those songs, frontman Blake Charleton had a commanding voice and an engaging stage presence. He kept me listening through the whole act.
Before I start talking about Via Audio, a word or two about the venue. Brooklyn Bowl is not a noodle restaurant or a basin of some sort. The “Bowl” in Brooklyn Bowl is there because the place is literally a bowling alley. It’s also a delicious (if overpriced) restaurant and, of course, a performance space. It actually looks like a really fun place to go bowling. Enormous television sets have been installed above each lane, giving bowlers a view of what’s happening on the stage behind them, as well as screening selected video clips (last night, they were from “Planet Earth.”)
This sounds like an awesome idea, and in many ways it is. Brooklyn Bowl’s atmosphere is enchanting. It’s one gigantic open room, with the restaurant looking out onto the performance space and the lanes right next to the stage. Unfortunately, because of the bowling noise, quieter moments were easily lost. This wasn’t a problem for Akudama’s big sound, but Via Audio relies a little bit more on subtlety. Add to that a divided audience – some people coming to eat, some to bowl, not as many as you’d hope coming to hear a show – and you’ve got a weird vibe going on. Despite lead singer Jessica Martin’s valiant attempts to get people to move, there was little happening on the dance floor.
Whatever the quirks of the venue, Via Audio played a tight, energetic show. Guitarist Tom Deis favors sharp upbeat attacks, which drummer Adam Sturtevant complements with clean, precise beats. With David Lizmi’s groovy bass lines and Martin’s expressive voice, they create sassy funk songs with soul leanings with a beautifully noisy edge.
What really makes Via Audio shine is the constant counterpoint between Deis and Martin. In some of the band’s best moments, Deis doubles Martin’s vocals with his guitar. This grounds some of the more adventurous melodies and adds punctuation to the end of her phrases. Deis often sang with her, too, and although they weren’t balanced quite right, their harmonies were sweet. The best example of this came right at the beginning of the set, during “Tigers.” The high open fourths between Deis and Martin added the perfect eerie overtones to this weirdly threatening song: “There’s Lions waiting in the grass/ You better put on all your masks/ they’ll catch you if you don’t run fast / so save your ass.”
Most of the songs in the set were from Via Audio’s second and newest album, Animalore, but they did play some new material, including the never-before-heard song “Bite.” You can watch my rushed and crappy video of it RIGHT HERE. Luckily, what I failed to do visually Via Audio more than made up for in the sound department:
Other highlights include the weirdest song in Via Audio’s repetoire, “Lizard Song.” On Animalore, it has a off-putting, vaguely Calypso beat, and Deis’s quick changes back and forth between clean and distorted sounds give off eccentricity and not much else. Live, the song is really, really fun. Those same quirky guitar riffs felt less bound by the beat, more their own entities, and they drove the song along into a more powerful, rougher area than Via Audio had been before. It was my favorite song of the night.
Via Audio ended their set with “Babies,” which features the band at their funkiest. The song starts with a long, upward swooping synth chord, with which the members of the band – along with a few brave souls in the audience – raised their arms up. Then they brought them down and played the hell out of the song. It was a great ending to a really fantastic performance. I hope to see them again in a different, hopefully more intimate, venue.
And so can you! Right now Via Audio performance dates are looking a little spotty, but if you happen to live around Westport, Connecticut, you can see them with Jukebox the Ghost this Sunday, 12/12, at Toquet Hall. Otherwise, tune in to their website for more Via Audio news, or better yet, grab Animalore here or here.
Finally, one last treat from last night: Via Audio performing one of their best songs, "Developing Active People."