There are two kinds of bands in this world. The first are groups that shamelessly ride the gravy train, aping indie-rock trends with sounds bereft of any semblance of creative advance. The second are bands that staunchly refuse to wane to dominating trends, sometimes through the blatant dismissal of expected structure and form. No-wave postpunkers Erase Errata are largely the latter.
Four years after their tour alongside postpunk girlfriends Le Tigre, Erase Errata face a lot of skepticism, even from some of the concertgoers waiting in the line to enter Studio B, some of whom fear that the band’s last hurrah has already happened. Compounded with the departure of their guitarist Sara Jaffe in 2004, the band’s future looked pretty grim. But, despite detractors asserting neo-no wave’s demise, Erase Errata are still alive, kicking, and now touring in support of their 2006 release Nightlife.
The space is clearly of Brooklyn’s Greenpoint, a foggy perimeter of Eurodancey strobe lights and locals who decided tonight was a good time to venture out of their hip abodes. I make the mistake of ordering a $6 beer. Amidst the fog machines pushing slightly acrid smoke at every turn, I tried to differentiate the truly dedicated fans from those waiting for the post-concert dancing to begin.
Characteristic hoots emanate from the front of the stage, portending arrival of the headlining girls. Bassist Ellie Erickson gives an endearing thumbs-up to an audience member before extending her gratitude to the band’s co-headliner, Adult. And before you can say “art rock,” Jenny Hoyston’s razor-sharp guitar jettisons past my ears, and the band ratchets up the volume (and lifts the listless ennui).
It’s possible Jaffe’s exit had a direct impact on Hoyston’s guitar parts, which now run with more melodic currents. Live, Nightlife‘s songs are more a conversational journey through the mind of Hoyston, and her anxieties over American politics and corporate ubiquity become amazingly tangible: “Put the workers to work,” she sings with an air of pronounced condescension. Erickson writhes robotically in tandem with the other two, her muscular basslines profusely hard-hitting, rejecting the tired “follow the root note” formulae.
Right about then, I realize that the trio don’t depend on semblance of matching costumes or mic-stand catapulting braggadocio to deliver their political bearings. They are cool, but it’s hard to say whether they actually give a flying hoot if you notice. I glance at the audience; the band’s straightforward approach seems to be working in its favor. I even see some stubble-lined mouths working the “Tax Dollar” chorus: “I got away, yes I really got away with murder.” Chatting patrons at the bar are summoned by Hoyston’s words to momentarily cease their banter: “Murder, manslaughter/ All funded by my tax dollar/ American bastard, murderous bitch.”
Nightlife single “Rider” is by far the most viral tune of the night, delivered as a sound collage that begins with reverb-laden guitar scratches, later posed seamlessly against Hoyston’s jagged, atonal riffs. Erickson whips out a string bow mid-song to bring the cacophony to cataclysmic levels. Drummer Bianca Sparta gallops along in due time, occasionally switching to machine-gun delivery and varying the meter.
Clothed under a pleasing danceability, the band’s political audacity and noise-prose has clearly meandered outside of their former, nervous No Wave resonances, and the crowd wholeheartedly approves. Despite what some might call a hollow threat to postpunk principles, these changes successfully build on the revival of the postpunk aesthetic without compromising with too much organization or pointless nostalgia. These principles translate fully into their live show.
The band exits the stage, tearing down their own gear and leaving the youth ready to commence the remainder of their own vapid “nightlife.” The barflies in the space may not have all concurred with Hoyston’s ballsy rejection of American capitalism or her unapologetic feminist axis. Still, Erase Errata’s set left us all with something to think about.