JDH SHOW REVIEW: Small Black (w/Beach Fossils)

Show Review: Small Black w/ Beach Fossils
July 10th, 2010
The Empty Bottle, Chicago

I returned to the Empty Bottle to see Small Black headline. Approaching the
venue I saw Josh (singer) outside and got a quick high five. I really can’t remember the
name of the opening band; they were decent but all in all an electronic version of the
Smiths.

I had never listened to Beach Fossils but their record had been getting an
appreciable amount of buzz. Ryan (Small Black) told me they were also from Brooklyn
and were part of the newer Lo-Fi Surf Rock trend. They definitely had a surf sound but
the live sound was very bright; as I’ve mentioned before I think it’s a great idea to bring a
bright and up front live sound when your record is intentionally fuzzy. The music was fast
and very nostalgic. The drum kit consisted of only two pieces – an upright bass/tom and a
snare. This speaks to the minimal aspects of the band; indeed after listening to the record
afterwards I was reminded of certain aspects of Joy Division. It was a great show but
there were some mishaps – Dustin, lead guitar/vocals/songwriter broke a string halfway
through the set and took an excruciating amount of time to repair it, never really seeming
satisfied with the resultant tuning and complaining/apologizing much thereafter. I know
they are the guys up there doing the work but I’ve played on stage before and I have to
say, when that stuff happens you have to do your best to work around it and keep things
going, otherwise you lose the crowd (which they almost did). When the second guitarist
broke a string towards the end of the set he did a better job of keeping things in flow.
Dustin is very young so I guess he will learn things the hard way like everyone else. Here
is a short clip – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0y4Q0cIDfM

Small Black REALLY stepped things up – they were a great band the first time I
saw them but they managed to streamline things and have progressed nicely. They even
began with an ambient introduction and strung their first two songs together. They played
just about every song from their current EP and a few new songs including a great dancey
tune in the 90s vein. Josh was a lot more mobile and comfortable interacting with the
crowd. The crowd was unfortunately a bit lax – it was getting late, people were getting
too drunk, and as a headliner Small Black is still kinda underbuzzed. I felt like I had to
single-handedly force them back on stage for a reluctant encore. The encore song was
announced as “the first song they ever wrote” and seemed like it would fit on a Beach
House album. Here is another clip from the same author – http://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=1SNlDcEJ2FE

I talked to Josh a bit afterwards and he said that indeed they were able to
streamline their set by reducing the amount of necessary gear and things to mess with.
Their full length album is being mastered as I write this and should be out in October,
recommended. I spoke with Dustin and he sold me a “luxe” copy of his self-titled record
on clear vinyl; I got copy 33 of 600. I digitally transcribed it as soon as I got home and
man what a difference! Verrrry chill compared to the live show. Slower tempo and lower
fidelity (intentionally, of course). Great record and I highly recommend that as well.

-jdh

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