When Blair (both the name of the band and the name of the singer/songwriter) took to the stage last night at Pianos, an overwhelming sense of familiarity seeped into the room. I knew I knew her from somewhere, but couldn’t quite place her. Did my band play with their band some time? Had I seen her at a party? It wasn’t until the end of the evening when she came up to me and asked me if she knew me did we figure out that our distant, brief meeting had taken place for just a few hours last August Brooklyn afternoon at a professional affair of sorts. Simple acquaintances. That’s almost a fitting analogy for Blair’s performance last night. The music was nothing new, or perhaps even all that interesting. Derivative of a million things, you might (mistakenly) pass many of the songs over if you heard them recorded. But there’s something special about this girl and her band. The sound, despite its rock simplicity, has a shiny, hopeful feel to it that makes it completely unique. I felt I was really getting a secret look into Blair’s particular life perspective during her set. Plus, a few of the songs are real gems. “Hello, Halo,” of course. But “Die Young” is also a sad, shimmery rocker. “Candy In the Kitchen” is delightful and has a verifiable radio-friendly hook that involves Whitney Houston. I suppose I can’t say I was blown away by this band, but I was quietly and deeply impressed.
It was a good night at Pianos. Oberhofer is something special, as well. Once the solo project of Brad Oberhofer, now his full-fledged New York band (via Tacoma), it will only be a matter of time until the blogosphere turns Oberhofer guys into teenage buzz pulp. These guys are going to get compared a lot to Surfer Blood and The Smith Westerns, if only because of their age. They sound more like the latter, and frankly, Mr. Brad Oberhofer looks like a petit 19-year-old version Joseph Gordon Levitt. An indie-rock-heartthrob in the making. They were all shockingly young, brandishing big black X’s on each of their hands, which reflected itself in their performance in the best ways. All clearly very adept at their instruments, you could still tell nerves and excitement were wreaking havoc with various tempos and strumming patterns. This made the entire performance feel all the more exciting, not sloppy as you might imagine. Oberhofer’s lead vocal performance was also incredibly strong and unique. With songs that meander between time signatures, riffy guitar parts, and sparkling synth lines, the music wavers between deceptively simple and actually simple, but this is overshadowed by sheer exuberance of youth and exploring exactly what a rock song can do. They seem to be aware of how young they are. This is the about me on their MySpace:
“When your songs are too big to be contained: form a band. Maybe call it after your family name because you like the way it sounds (shit, if it worked for Bon Jovi then who’s to argue). Record those songs in the basement of your parents house in Tacoma. When that burns down, shake it off and move to New York. Find a new band to play with, start working on a symphony (no really, do it), mix your newfound formal training with the noisy exuberance of youth. Get raucous.”
Being aware of your youth is kind of a weird thing, but Oberhofer seems to celebrate it in exactly the right ways. Back to the Surfer Blood reference, for instance. This band will grow and they will get compared to Surfer Blood all the time because of their age, I think. Where Surfer Blood is a Weezer-influenced band of mature prepsters looking like they’ve gotten to the point that they have because they knew how to do their homework in high school, Oberhofer is the guy in the hoodie in the back of homeroom, getting a detention for smoking pot in the senior parking lot before school. Which guy would you rather go out with? Exactly. Seriously, the bass player looked like he was gonna get in trouble for not doing his homework the next day, because he was out gigging with his band. The second guitar player was so slight and petit that I was afraid he would entirely disappear, leaving behind only an impressively full mountain-man beard. Young people making music is SO exciting, because there’s just more hope of possibility in that music. I’d much rather see and listen to a band like Oberhofer than a polished and well-conceived one like Surfer Blood. The songs are a little less clean and easy but 100 times more fun. Comparison aside, I am very, very excited about this band. They’re playing a show on Friday. Definitely make it out if you can.