On Oct. 5 I had the pleasure—nay, the honor—of seeing the amazingly eccentric and talented experimental freak folk band tUnE-yArDs with opening act Pat Jordache at Cat’s Cradle. I was so excited about this show that I got there an hour and a half early with fellow DJ Salt Water Jaffee and ran to the stage to post up front and center so I could be as close as possible to my queen, my goddess, Merrill Garbus.
I was a little apprehensive when the first person to come on stage for Pat Jordache was a man who was all ribs and muscle in nothing but a pair of overalls and gold chains: no shirt or shoes. He sat down behind the 10+ drum set and began playing. His talent and obvious passion for banging stuff blew my mind. A few seconds later the second drummer came out and began beating the crap out of a tom tom and a snare. Then out came the guitarist, crutching along with a hurt foot. Jordache, front man/bassist/keyboard extraordinaire with a haircut not grown in the U.S., was the last to appear and began to serenade us with his deep, throaty cooing against heavily present bass, brain rattling drums, and airy guitar. The band is kind of New Wave, somewhere between Joy Division and Fleet Foxes.
Jordache was the perfect warm-up act for the insanity that arose when Garbus stepped on stage with her painted cronies in color blocked clothing.
If you’ve never heard of tUnE-yArDs, you’re missing out. It is everything I’ve ever asked for from the music gods: powerful, loud, tribal, catchy, sexual, dance-y, eccentric, and a downright good time. The band is most famous for live vocal and percussion looping, strong melodies, and Garbus’ insanely African-influenced singing style and inhumanly wide vocal range. I melted into the monitor I was leaning against out of sheer amazement when she hit her high notes in the song “Powa.” Such a loud and powerful sound is strange coming from Garbus, the close-to-five-feet-tall howling singer with half of her head shaved and colorful paint on her face. She was constant smiles and giggles with a few funny faces thrown in.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the show was not how much fun I and the rest of the audience were having as we “worked it out on the dance floor” (Garbus herself commented on how insane the crowd was), but how much fun the band was having. While Garbus was cheerily strumming on her be-stickered ukulele, the two saxophone players jumped around banging pots and pans and danced like hunchbacks at a disco. The bassist was the epitome of cool on the opposite side of the stage, bopping along and slapping his bass. But when he stepped up to the microphone for a bit of a vocal solo, the crowd went nuts, which shows the love the fans hold for tUnE-yArDs is not just rooted in the front woman, as is commonly the case, but in every single member that contributes to the masterpieces that are every song they release.
Throughout the show I noticed that almost all of my fellow audience members new the words to every song she played. It wasn’t a case of everyone knowing the words to “Gangsta” or “Bizness” but not “You Ves You” or “My Country.” I can honestly say that this is the first show I’ve been to where the people that were there truly wanted to be there more than anything else in the world. I’m sure they will agree with me when I say that this concert was not just another show; it was a spiritual experience.