By: Kelly Yambor
When one of my friends saw the worldly, indie-pop band tUnE-yArDs open for Arcade Fire on their most recent tour, she described their performance as absolutely all over the place, bold and exciting. Neon wardrobes, an entertaining backup dancer/singer duo and spontaneous screams were all mentioned. In her particular experience she even witnessed lead singer, Merrill Garbus, take off her neon pink sneakers and use them to slam on her drums. Needless to say, I fell in love and took the first opportunity I could to see her perform at the Ready Room in St. Louis last week.
For those who have not attended a concert at the Ready Room, you should. It provides the intimacy of a garage or a basement, but with obviously better sound and a space where you have a good view pretty much anywhere you stand. As a 5 ft tall person, this is more than ideal – but I snagged a spot in the front row anyway. The stage setup was eclectic and charming, with neon sheets of fabric draped across the stage and cutouts of glittery eyeballs scattered throughout.
As the band made their grand entrance, I quickly concluded this was going to be a fun show. They were decked out in their best neon, power-clashing ensembles, and their swagger could not be denied. As soon as she took her place, Garbus got to work with the opener, “Hey Life.” Her personal set-up was composed of a drum set with a sock taped to it, a ukelele, her mic, a keyboard and vocal looping devices heavily utilized throughout the show. She is an absolute powerhouse from the very start, mastering all of her instruments all at once. It was chaotic and beautiful. The backup dancer/singer duo angrily smashed their drumsticks together, screamed and made provocative faces in the spirit of political protest and self expression for songs such as, “Gangsta,” “Water Fountain,” and “Real Thing.” The extra drummer and bassist, Nate Brenner, on the other hand, played calmly.
Garbus did not say much; she seemed more focused on making the music perfect for the audience rather than including them. Nonetheless the crowd was excited, woo-ing and clapping throughout most of the show. At one point the cheering even distracting Garbus, putting her off-key as she was trying to loop her vocals. “I know we want the crowd to cheer and clap, but sometimes it really f*cks me up!” she joked.
Overall, the show was outlandish and amazing. Garbus was certainly something else, with a performance style all her own and music with a lot to say. The energy of tUnE-yArDs is contagious and their presence in a live setting made me fall in love with their exotic sound and activist spirit all over again.
Kelly Yambor is a sophomore at the University of Missouri from Annapolis, MD. While she is currently majoring in Secondary Social Studies Education, she lives and breathes music. The majority of her spare time is spent listening to music, helping behind the scenes of concerts and festivals, attending concerts or blogging about music. She has volunteered at festivals such as Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Roots N’ Blues N’ BBQ, and the music team for True/False Film Festival. Kelly also helps bring live music to Mizzou as an officer for the Department of Student Activities’ College Music Committee.