Last night was the first of two sold out shows for Little Scream and The Antlers in New York; this one at Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. I had caught the very end of Little Scream, aka Laurel Sprengelmeyer’s set when she opened for Land of Talk at Bowery Ballroom last fall, giving me just a small taste of what she was capable of. She was solo and fierce then, but last night she had an entire band to take her songs to another level.
Little Scream is based out of Montreal, so it’s no surprise that she has a whole network of talented friends that she can call on to join her. For this show, she was able to add synth, flute (and bass flute!), backup vocals, lead guitar, and drums to compliment her center stage vocals and guitar. When she is solo, her songs have a bit of a tribal feel. Since this time she didn’t need to have tambourines on her feet, stomp so hard, or create a wall of sound all by herself, the tribal vibe instead became a more communal vibe, with all the musicians having a nice repartee on stage and looking like they earnestly enjoyed playing with each other.
Sprengelmeyer mentioned that this was only their third show together on this tour so far, and perhaps that was why they seemed to have such a fresh and fun attitude. During “Boatman,” which had more of a circus-feeling intro going into guitar-driven intensity, they skipped over the bridge and had to take a moment to regroup and start again. The good-natured ambiance they had created let everyone just laugh it off and get back into it with just as much energy, if not more. They could have made a million mistakes and still put on a refreshingly enjoyable show.
Little Scream’s last song of the set was “Red Hunting Jacket,” the same one I had originally walked into at Bowery Ballroom. The extra vocals and instrumentation added different elements of intensity and haunting vocals, and still made for a great closer. It’s hard to compare Sprengelmeyer’s solo performance with her full band performance, and even the recorded version (where “Red Hunting Jacket” in particular actually takes on a distinctive Patti Smith quality at the end), because the songs become variations of themselves, with each version having enough of it’s own special qualities to feel unique. With this organic approach to music and live performance, I would expect every Little Scream show to be interesting and new, to the point where I wouldn’t want to miss them play no matter how often they came to town.
Brooklyn favorites The Antlers were next. This ensemble of Peter Silberman, Michael Lerner, and Darby Cicci played several songs off their new album, Burst Apart, with the occasional beautifully lamenting track off their debut Hospice. The first of the latter was “Bear,” which received it’s fair shar of approval from the crowd before going into “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out.” After Silberman announced this song, the person next to me exclaimed, “This song is badass!” Silberman slowly twirled during the cascading breaks like a ballerina in a music box. A male ballerina, of course, and no less masculine for the emotion.
Their slow songs were beautifully mesmerizing, with people in the audience standing in awe; their smiling faces staring at the band. The more up-tempo songs had plenty of cutting guitar mixed with haunting vocals, and every song had perfectly synched lights to really add to the atmosphere of it all. The Antlers know how to make some great soundscapes; but we already knew that.
The last song, “Putting the Dog to Sleep” got strong claps, and the band didn’t need too much prodding to come back for an encore. They began the four-song encore with “Kettering,” much to the crowd’s excitement, and continued to build up tension through cascading keyboard and guitar tremolos, along with Silberman’s intense gaze that seemed to look through everything all at once. The buildup lead to the final “Wake,” an appropriate closer for a show that succeeded in building an ambiance of awe and sonic daze.
Tonight Little Scream and The Antlers play their second sold out New York show at Bowery Ballroom, and then they continue with the rest of their U.S. tour together until mid-June. Little Scream’s new album The Golden Record is available on CD and vinyl through Secretly Canadian.