Gotye + Sea of Bees: 6 February 2012 - New York

Conor Kelley

Anyone familiar with his studio records, especially his latest effort Making Mirrors, knows that Gotye is a dynamic songwriter, and this holds true in his live shows.

Sea of Bees

Gotye + Sea of Bees

City: New York
Venue: Bowery Ballroom
Date: 2012-02-06

The crowd at Gotye’s sold out show at Bowery Ballroom on February 6th was a rare intersection of the indie and pop worlds. Historically, in America, these two highways used to merge every couple miles, giving drivers the choice to check out the scenery on either road for as long as they wished. Now they are parallel and unbending, with concrete medians ensuring everyone stays in their lane for the remainder of the trip. Gotye’s single “Somebody that I Used to Know” is a bulldozing breakthrough that begs to be played on repeat. The strange thing about Gotye is, while he might be one-hit wonder in America, to the rest of the world he’s an accomplished artist with a rich catalog reaching back eleven years. It’s clear he is appreciative of the support he’s garnered from the single, but has no intention of relying on “Somebody that I Used to Know” as his bread and butter forever. The obvious dissection of the crowd, split into fair-weather and die-hard, certainly made for an interesting night.

The opener was Sea of Bees, which, in this case, meant Julie Ann Bee and an acoustic guitar. The die-hards were huddled close to the stage, attempting to force the intimacy that a songwriter of this caliber deserves. Sea of Bees is Julie Ann’s project and, while she usually tours and records with a band, she is the heart of the material. Her appearance is unassuming and androgynous, leaving the performance naked and unaltered by a male gaze. She sang mostly new songs, with the inclusion of a few from previous records. Her closer “The Woods” sticks out as the most stirring. The song ended with Bee’s palm raised to the ceiling as her unaccompanied voice carried on like a modern day troubadour. Sea of Bees, in any incarnation, is consistently honest music.

The Bowery Ballroom filled almost instantaneously as the schizophrenic crowd flooded through the door for Gotye. His stage set up is a perfect blend of electronic and live elements. He surrounds himself in a world of percussion, and is constantly beating on pads, cymbals, MIDI controllers, and toms as he sings. The presence of a live rhythm section as opposed to triggered samples gave his eclectic sound the footing it needed to turn a head-bobbing crowd into a dancing one. Anyone familiar with his studio records, especially his latest effort Making Mirrors, knows that Gotye is a dynamic songwriter, and this holds true in his live shows. From the King Tubby-esque dub of “State of the Art” to the Steve Winwood reminiscent “In Your Light”, the show felt like a live rendering of a party mix-tape. An undeniable energy was present molding the conflicted audience into a single moving being.

Any doubts that existed about whether or not Gotye is a pop heartthrob were quickly squelched when a female fan threw her bra onstage, in true Tom Jones fashion. Unlike the veteran “Sex Bomb” singer though, Gotye adorned the undergarment for a full song, making it clear that his newfound celebrity is still a novelty, even to him.

Finally, the time came for the inevitable. The fair-weathers waited with bated breath as Gotye joked about butchering “Somebody that I Used to Know” by pitching his voice down a couple octaves with a vocoder while he sang. Although many of the people that bought tickets for only one song had already been converted by this point in the show, there was still a palpable pressure to perfectly execute the international hit and give the people what they wanted. Gotye delivered. What put this particular performance over the top was the surprise addition of the 22-year-old Australian songstress Kimbra, who popped out and absolutely nailed her brief but powerful verse.

Gotye is a brave artist, unafraid to try his hand at any number of genres on a single record. Instead of a disjointed mess of a live show, what he delivered at Bowery Ballroom was a riveting and always fresh concert that had the power to move people. Whether or not he will have another smash like “Somebody that I Used to Know” is inconsequential to his future success. For the moment, however, he has accomplished something noteworthy, by creating music with the restored faith that pop and indie fans may change lanes freely once again.

View these images in higher resolution at PopMatters' Facebook page.

Sea of Bees



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

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

19. Antwood: Sponsored Content (Planet Mu)

Sponsored Content is a noisy, chaotic, occasionally beautiful work with a dark sense of humor that's frequently deployed to get Antwood's point across. For instance, throughout the aforementioned "Disable Ad Blocker", which sounds mostly like the creepy side of Tangerine Dream's early '80s experimental output, distorted slogans and recognizable themes worm their way into the mix. "I'm Loving It", we hear at one point, the Sony PlayStation startup music at another. And then there's a ten-second clip of what sounds like someone getting killed in a horror movie. What is there to make of the coexistence of those sorts of samples? Probably nothing explicit, just the uneasiness of benign and instantly-recognizable brand content in the midst of harsh, difficult art. Perhaps quality must to some extent be tied to sponsorship. That Antwood can make this point amidst blasts and washes of experimental electronic mayhem is quite the achievement. - Mike Schiller

18. Bonobo - Migration (Ninja Tune)

Although Bonobo, a.k.a. Simon Green, has been vocal in the past about not making personality driven music, Migration is, in many respects, a classic sounding Bonobo record. Green continues to build sonic collages out of chirping synths, jazz-influenced drums, sweeping strings and light touches of piano but on Migration sounds more confident than ever. He has an ability to tap into the emotions like few others such as on the gorgeous "Break Apart" and the more percussive "Surface". However, Bonobo also works to broaden his sound. The electro-classical instrumental "Second Sun" floats along wistfully, sounding like it could have fit snugly onto a Erased Tapes compilation, while the precise and intricate "Grains" shows the more intimate and reflective side of his work. On the flipside, the higher tempo, beat driven tracks such as "Outlier" and "Kerala" perfectly exhibit his understanding of what works on the dance floor while on "Bambro Koyo Ganda" he even weaves North African rhythms into the fabric. Migration is a multifaceted album full of personality and all the better for it. - Paul Carr

17. Kiasmos - Blurred EP (Erased Tapes)

The Icelandic duo of Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen, aka Kiasmos, is a perfect example of a pair of artists coming from two very different musical backgrounds, finding an unmistakable common ground to create something genuinely distinctive. Arnalds, more known for his minimal piano and string work, and Rasmussen, approaching from a more electropop direction, have successfully explored the middle ground between their different musical approaches and in doing so crafted affecting minimalist electronic music. Blurred is one of the most emotionally engaging electronic releases of the year. The duo is working from a refined and bright sonic palette as they consummately layer fine, measured sounds together. It is an intricate yet unforced and natural sounding set of songs with every song allowed room to bloom gradually. - Paul Carr

16. Ellen Allien - Nost (BPitch Control)

BPitch boss and longtime lynchpin of the DJ scene in Berlin, Ellen Allien's seven full-length releases show an artist constantly reinventing herself. Case in point, her 2013 offering, LISm, was a largely beat-less ambient work designed to accompany an artsy dance piece, while its follow-up, 2017's Nost, is a hardcore techno journey, spiritually born in the nightclubs and warehouses of the early '90s. It boasts nine straight techno bangers, beautifully minimalist arrangements with haunting vocals snippets and ever propulsive beats, all of which harken back to a hallowed, golden, mostly-imagined age when electronic music was still very much underground, and seemingly anything was possible. - Alan Ranta

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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

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