Owen Pallett + Fellow Citizens
14 May 2010: Larimer Lounge Denver
The Larimer Lounge is nothing more than a dive bar with a room in the back for live music. In other words, it’s a pretty cool place. The acoustics aren’t bad, but they’re not great, so musically you can hear what’s being played on a larger scale, but the nuances of a performance can be easily missed. As the doors in the back are left open, you can hear the music from the main bar, but you can also hear the bar from the music space – it’s a delicate balance. Friday night the Larimer Lounge was kept at a respectable capacity: not too claustrophobically crowded, but not too agoraphobically empty.
Fellow Citizens is a seven-piece band that plays what could be described as shoegaze, a term that does not sound like a musical genre, but rather an action that you perform while listening to or playing such music. Basically, Fellow Citizens as a band plays one note, all at the same time, with random vocal “ahhs” and harmonies thrown in from time to time. It’s not boring, but it’s definitely not exciting. To be blunt, 3/7 of the band is completely unnecessary. Two of the three guitarists could be stricken from the line-up, and the part of the female vocalist, which consisted of harmonizing and playing tambourine, could be played by any other remaining member of the band. This is an example of a commonly forgotten idea: less is more. Fellow Citizens is not a bad band, in fact what they play can be rather entertaining (that is, if you enjoy ambient noise, which many people do, this reviewer included), but it just so happens that it may be more entertaining to talk to your neighbor about what the band is doing wrong than to sit and listen to them for an hour.
Owen Pallett, formerly known as Final Fantasy, is the exact opposite of this. He is one man who uses two instruments to make every sound: a violin and his vocal chords. At times he brings an extra body on stage to play guitar and harmonize, but that’s simply because it’s nearly impossible to harmonize with yourself. Also, the violin does not sound like a guitar. What Pallett does is very impressive: as he loops somewhat complicated rhythmic violin parts, he plays melody on the same instrument and sings over that. It’s similar in essence to Keller Williams and Howie Day circa 1999 (and a million-and-one teenagers who bought a looping pedal and played alone in their dorm rooms, though not nearly at this talent-level), and similar in sound to an early, more bare-bones Andrew Bird or Rufus Wainwright.
As a hipster crowd stands to listen, they do not move nor do they sway from side to side: they simply stand and listen, which in this case is absolutely appropriate. By the end of the hour-long set, you are not so much satisfied as you are ready for something – an hour of standing still can do that to a person. Pallett is perhaps the great precursor to something great, or maybe the great thing is that this kind of creativity exists at all.