Memory Tapes disappoints at Brighton Music Hall
Lack of crowd interaction mars band’s tight set
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 02:02
On the eve of Winter Storm Nemo, giddy music fans poured into the Brighton Music Hall in anticipation of a night of good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll, temporarily forgetting the imminent snowstorm that was to cover everything in white. Headliner Memory Tapes brought warm, electric vibes in the form of fast−paced, in−your−face rock grooves.
Frontman Dayve Hawk originally started as a solo artist in 2009, garnering recognition from the blogosphere by remixing artists like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and concocting music that was simultaneously dreamy and danceable. He was a forerunner in the genre that would go on to be dubiously termed “chillwave.”
Hawk now tours with a live band that includes an added bassist and drummer, himself on guitar and a mysterious man behind the scenes who appears to be playing dubbed tapes with synthesizer melodies. Throughout the night, Hawk and company worked together to build sublime grooves that seemingly to reach a never−ending climax, with each member’s furiously trying to do outdo the others. Memory Tapes was sonically tight and locked into the groove that the headphoned drummer furiously laid down, but the group members never acknowledged one another— or even the crowd, for that matter. Instead, they remained content to entirely focus on building a sonic juggernaut without the least bit of emotion. Hawk burst out into at least two solos per song without any bit of flair or bombast—his voice was ethereal and soothing, singing unintelligible lyrics that one would hope were about comforting ideas. Given the warmth of his music, it was almost disturbing how little personality he and his backing members projected.
The group performed in a business−like, efficient manner, barreling through tracks without a moment’s hesitation. Sadly, this translated into an almost complete lack of crowd participation. Frontman Hawk had nothing at all to say between songs and didn’t even bother to introduce his band when he got on stage. They didn’t even try to engage with their rabid and clamoring fans, instead spending the entire performance looking down at the ground or their instruments.
The sonics were groovy and bodacious but were marred by the accompanying visual of instrumentalists more or less standing there in their own little worlds. The group didn’t reciprocate the energy that the crowd was throwing back at them, making their performance feel mechanical and unemotional. Frontman Hawk didn’t even look up when a rabid fan cajoled the already−animated crowd to get even more hyped−up for what was clearly his favorite band. The audience cheered, only to be ignored by the jaded, or faded, band members.
The second opening group, Teen, managed to offset Memory Tapes’ passiveness with an energetic and spunky set. The all−girl group was genuinely excited to be performing new material from its upcoming album. The group’s setup was unique, with the basic rhythm section of bassist and drummer accompanied by a synthesizer and a guitarist playing floating melodic lines rather than heavy power chords. The guitarist also had singing duties, effortlessly belting out R&B−style vocals while dancing in place.
The image of four females rocking out was incredibly captivating, and they shared an energy onstage that was contagious to all in attendance. Even the most hardened Bostonian found himself quietly grooving to the cacophony of girl−power sound emanating from the speakers. Their musical style was subtly nostalgic, harkening back to the ’90s and ’80s when all−girl groups were more of a reality. They subtly utilized reverb on the guitar and synthesizer to create a feeling of distance, and distortion on the guitar added a lo−fi effect. When the lead singer sang, “Here’s your ticket to paradise,” everyone in attendance was flown away to a tropical locale far, far away from the torrential snowstorm awaiting them outside.