December 11, 2012

On Monday night, Santigold and Grizzly Bear filled the Bowery Ballroom with two very different vibes for the SPIN Year in Music party.  Although both performers have been touring at the same Australian music festivals for the past few months, they proved an incongruous match: hipster sway versus energetic spectacle.

Santigold opened the night in a stylized fury. Her band wore all-white painter’s outfits while the two backup dancers dressed in matching bloomers adorned with neon fringe, green gossamer puff sleeved tops, and white-rimmed sunglasses.  They swapped out fluffy gold pom-poms for wooden mallets (swung railroad style) and wore stoic expressions discordant with the high-powered dance routines they performed in near-perfect unison. Santigold wore a lime green dress and sunglasses with rhinestone circles on each lens while performing hits “L.E.S. Artists” and “Lights Out” from her first self-titled album. The effect was a battery-powered arcade game come to life.

Halfway through the set a plush white horse walked on the small stage, strutted, and then stripped to reveal Santigold’s band mates emerging from the velveteen costume. The crowd erupted with approval as her backup dancers threw on black and white cropped Catholic nun dresses and southern belle umbrellas and Santigold transitioned to tracks from her second album, Master of My Make-Believe.  It has a slightly more Island brass sound and tribal beat than her first album and the dancers flexed concave and birdlike to accompany it, reminiscent of Alvin Ailey’s gospel-inspired “Wade in the Water.”

Between acts Red Diamond Wines passed out cheep plastic sunglasses and mesh baseball caps in case any of the guests had forgotten their hipster accessories (though few had). On the wall screen shots from SPIN’s website displayed images of their featured artists over the past year.

When Grizzly Bear took the stage, the audience grew more dense and the sound slowed down. Styled in t-shirts, jeans, and unkempt hair, the stage was darker and the band was lit from below in yellow light. The room filled with a hollow echo of merging beats—electric guitars, xylophone, drums, and the sporadic clink of a tambourine—awkwardly blended to the low moan of harmonized voices.  At times invoking Radiohead and the Smiths, their long sung vocals collided imperfectly with the church organ vibrations of an electronic acid-trip, producing a slightly haunted energy.  The night ended with “Two Weeks,” an uplifting end to an otherwise slow and slightly dark set.

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