That first time watching live loop pedal makes for a distinctive and curious experience, yeah? For me it would’ve been during the solo performance of a guy opening for The Kickback in end-of-year 2010 at The Tonic Room.
For the uninitiated — and I was reminded there are still plenty of you, based on the look of amusement of a friend who joined me at Evanston S.P.A.C.E. on Tuesday — the loop pedal allows one musician (or several) to do on stage what previously got done in studio. By looping guitars and things on the fly — live — one guitar becomes many guitars. Or, a hastily played sound — a drum beat, we’ll say — gets recorded on the pedal, and then the sound’s repeated — if and when it needs to be — to the end of the tune. So, drum beats are had hands free, freeing up the musician to go and play another thing. Or several things.
I’ve seen the device used several times since that show at The Tonic Room, so for the guys of El Ten Eleven to break it out at Space this week wasn’t particularly affecting for me. But for my friend, it provoked in him that same run of questions we’re smacked with when witnessing something we can’t quite understand: What’s going on? Where’s that sound coming from? How are they doing that?
You know — what in the hang is happening?
I won’t say I see the loop pedal on a stage too often yet, so seeing it twice in a week was unique and interesting. At the Empty Bottle on Wednesday, the New York-based Dustin Wong used one to coat the room in thick layers of guitar. Like El Ten Eleven, he performs without vocals, and dependence on the loop pedal runs high.
Neither El Ten Eleven or Dustin Wong brought me out of my apartment, though. It was their Chicago-based openers — In Tall Buildings and Grandeurs — who’ve only recently been written about by me here. This is particularly true of an exceptional young foursome named Grandeurs, whose long EP or short LP — however you categorize seven songs — was reviewed here a week and a half ago.
I’ll do this chronologically, though, so In Tall Buildings is first.
It’s a bit of silly to consider that I’ve yet to see In Tall Buildings headline a show, but the state of the matter is I’ve gotten to know them as second fiddler to Santah, Tennis and now El Ten Eleven. That might’ve, of course, rung untrue about a month ago when they got booked to headline an evening of music at Space — with Cains & Abels as support — but for whatever reason the venue expunged the show from its schedule.
To see a group like In Tall Buildings at a venue like Space seemed like an unstoppable pairing in my head. Sadly, it wasn’t so on Tuesday. Apparent right away was how differently they’d been cued by the sound guys at Space compared to how they’ve been handled in the past at Lincoln Hall.
In Tall Buildings has soared and is gorgeous at Lincoln Hall. At Space, it was difficult to make out the complexities. Even Erik Hall’s voice and words, keystones to the band’s sound, were a bit overwhelmed by the other instruments; hard to discern.
I’ve sung high praises about Space in the past — I mean, what would likely seem to some as questionable hyperbole — so the miscue was a bummer, sure, but also an oddity. Unicorn rare. But end of day, In Tall Buildings is a live treat, regardless, and as they teased on Tuesday, we’ve got a new album to look forward to sometime.
From the debut (2010):
I’m happy to report that the sound of Grandeurs live is about as lovely under the lights as it is on record — a fortunate truth, since I consider their self-titled January release to be one of my early favorites of the year.
The boys worked the stage with a touch of drift, really, but given the day (a Wednesday) and their slot (first), I get it. I think, too, that a subdued presence on the stage squares with the Grandeurs brand. Their music goes down easy, smooth. Stimulating between-song banter, say, might distract from an otherwise dreamy pace of set.
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