Baths + Braids: 5 February 2011 - Austin, TX

Ryan Lester

Braids and Baths managed to transform the Mohawk stage into their own exhibitions of craft and skill, and it helped make the near record lows that had plagued central Texas leading up to the show a distant memory.


Baths + Braids

City: Austin, TX
Venue: The Mohawk
Date: 2011-02-05

Will Wiesenfeld, most commonly known by his stage name Baths, and Montreal upstarts Braids are an interesting combination for sharing a bill. One is a beat producing wizkid with his feet firmly planted in the world of pop while the other crafts dense, highly experimental dream-pop with the force of a post-rock band. Despite their musical differences, there was no denying the fact that these two groups share an enthusiastic and qualitative approach to performing. Braids and Baths managed to transform The Mohawk stage into their own exhibitions of craft and skill, and it helped make the near record lows that had plagued central Texas leading up to the show a distant memory.

A sizable crowd had gathered by the time Braids took the stage, and with good reason. The young Canadians recently released one of the first great debuts of 2011 with Native Speaker, an album filled with emotional outbursts, moments of restrained beauty, and an overall musical maturity from the group beyond their years. That same fully realized sound was brought to the stage through the group’s tightness as musicians. One could tell from looking at the amount of concentration on guitarist Taylor Smith’s face that the band was serious about playing every note to precision. Guitars chimed, synths swirled, and the percussion pulsated through each of their songs, such as the stunningly gorgeous “Lemonade” and the wall of sound that was “Native Speaker”. Despite the seriousness and depth of the music being played, the band was all smiles throughout their set, demonstrating a level of comfort and confidence that is rare for a band on their first big tour.

Braids’ primary weapon is the almost otherworldly voice of lead singer/guitarist Raphaelle Standell-Preston. Within set opener “Glass Deers” alone, she demonstrated that her abilities to shift her voice from a delicate muse to a forceful and unhinged cry was something that came naturally to her, as she pulled it off with little to no effort. Standell-Preston’s voice was given an even wider space to breath thanks to the vocal contributions of keyboardist Katie Lee, and the arrangements were the perfect backdrop for her to sing of the heartache and torment that constitute most of her lyrics. During “Native Speaker”, she put down her guitar and stood angelically at the microphone, and whether it was intentional or not, it was the perfect metaphor for her abilities as a singer. Though the group only was able to play five or six songs (granted, the average song length was about six minutes), Braids more than proved themselves as one of the most exciting new bands to come from Montreal in the last couple of years.

When Braids left the stage, even more people gathered on all three levels of The Mohawk. After a quick setup, Wiesenfeld was ready and eager to perform. One of the first things that people would notice about him was how eccentric of a person he is. He was genuinely excited to be sharing his songs with the audience, and they returned the favor by immediately moving to set opener “Apologetic Shoulderblades”. Throughout his set, it was easy to see the connection Wiesenfeld felt with each of his tracks, as he bobbed his head and twisted his knobs with the same attention to detail that a surgeon would use. This sort of connection perhaps was best exemplified on fan favorite “Animals”, where he acted out samples of children making animal noises with his arms and facial expressions. His onstage persona was nothing short of infectious, as he was dead set on everyone having a great time.

Wiesenfeld’s music is a combination of nearly sublime ambience with schizophrenic beats, yet he performed with such emotion and finesse that he was able to sell his seemingly odd combination without a hitch. The retro piano lines of “You’re My Excuse To Travel” were met with an ecstatic vocal from Wiesenfeld and a shuffling drum arrangement, while “Lovely Bloodflow” had a sort of retro soul feel to it. Additionally, he played a few new songs that showed potential directions he could take on the follow up to last year’s Cerulean. One of the songs had an almost industrial feel to it, with lyrics like “I am the ocean / Return the earth to the water,” and “I’m gonna bury your body in my graveyard” to contribute to the overall haunted vibe of the track. Even when singing these more ominous lyrics, Wiesenfeld kept his energy level high and his persona intact. By the time he had finished his set with another new song, the audience that had been moving for nearly an hour straight gave him a rapturous applause.

Both of these young acts have bright futures ahead of them, and it was evident from their performances that they have the live aspects of their music down to an art form. There was not a dull moment to be found in both their sets, and the audience stayed engaged the entire time. While they may have been an odd combination on show posters, the undeniable talents of Baths and Braids united them to make for an evening of musical bliss that could easily make anyone forget about their freezing feet.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.