Tag Archives: summerstage

She and Him and A Packed House at Central Park Summerstage

9 Jul
Photo: Dana Yavin

Photo: Dana Yavin

A quick glance at the sold-out crowd at Central Park Summerstage during last Saturday’s scorcher might have suggested something ranging from slightly eerie to downright strange – there was a sea of smiling Zooey Deschanel’s baking in the New York City sun. Draped in diaphanous sun dresses, hair adornments, and soft makeup, a quirky army of fans sat on the faux green lawn of Summerstage and dined on Asiadogs and craft beer through Camera Obscura’s upbeat opening set. And then, as the sun started setting over the skyscrapers in the distance, the one and only new girl fluttered out on stage with her rock partner in crime, M. Ward, and sang “I Was Made for You” to the true sold out crowd of cute impersonators.

Let’s back up a second to answer the immediate question sparked by this opening passage. Zooey Deschanel sings? Most know the rising star from “500 Days of Summer,” “Elf,” or the hit Fox show “New Girl,” but she is also an accomplished Jazz singer with a penchant for keyboards, percussion, banjo and ukulele.

After meeting on the set of the 2007 movie “The Go-Getter,” Deschanel and M. Ward, an accomplished Indie/Folk/Rock singer-songwriter, formed a collaboration that has since released four studio albums, the most recent released in May of this year.

The skill of both musicians was apparent during the sweltering show at Summerstage. Why am I belaboring the heat? It was HOT. Hot, humid, sticky, sweaty, and sunny. But, despite the heat – both generated from the sun and by the close grouping of attendees – the 28-song set captured the ears of the concert goers, and the vast majority of listeners were hanging on every note played by She & Him’s talented band.

I was most stricken with two elements of the show. It is no surprise that Deschanel can attract an audience – she is an actress – so the large crowd of wild-eyed lookalikes was expected, but her proficiency with the vast instrumentation on stage was intriguing. M. Ward and she swapped instruments and bounced around the stage effervescently. The extensive set list mixed She & Him originals with classics like “You Really Got a Hold on Me” and “Stars Fell on Alabama.” Deschanel and her backup singer duo The Chapin Sisters also performed an airy cover of “Unchained Melody.” During the encore M. Ward rocked a cover of “Roll Over Beethoven” and Deschanel and M. Ward closed the show with a sultry version of “I Put a Spell on You.”

Overall, despite the grueling heat, She & Him and Camera Obscura were pretty darn cool. I was impressed by the talent that oozed from She & Him, and considering the engagement of the audience, I think a full crowd at Summerstage agreed with that sentiment.

Dreaming in Central Park – M83 at Summerstage 8/8/2012

10 Aug

Let there be M83

I’ve come to a conclusion. Bands who start off their concerts with a fly monster gradually lifting his arms towards the sky while green laser beams shoot out of them towards the crowd will probably perform a good show. M83’s weeknight concert at Central Park Summerstage proved this abstruse statistic correct. The French shoegaze/synthpop foursome led by vocalist, conductor, art director, pianist, etc. Anthony Gonzalez combined forces with a full on-stage orchestra to blast ambient riffs to an excited crowd.

Okocim and I expected the crowd to be more Hipstery. I’m not entirely sure what we meant by that, but we both know collectively what we are talking about. Skinny, cigarette-puffing, open button-downs or short skin-revealing black t’s, slicked back hair, $300 ensemble, crossing their arms and nodding at the music while sipping a craft beer or, better yet, wine from the City Winery cart. Instead, the concert was attended by an eclectic group of mostly 20-somethings dancing and sweating in the inevitable cloud of weed and beer. M83 played to the crowd exceptionally well, putting together a set list that unctuated skillfully and culminated into percussion-heavy fast-paced electronic synth tracks that sparked sweaty dancing. It was certainly an intimate gathering as my sweat-soaked shirt and aching knee would suggest.

The light show (you can see a little taste above) was exceptionally well-done. It was coordinated perfectly with the music, and it was not excessive. It accentuated the tracks and provided listeners with brilliant visual stimuli.

During the concert, as drug-induced swaying mixed with hums and yells, I started thinking about the type of music that M83 creates. It is a type of electronic that is original to them. “Midnight City,” for example – their most popular song and the one that received the most cheers during the show – is pop, well synthpop. But their other material is dreamy, smooth, and almost drawn-out (giving them the shoegaze title – but one that is light on guitars). Some may call the music Indietronica, an obscure combo genre that is not used so often. I think I am going to settle on calling them M83. They are unique. A majority of their music comes from the 80’s new wave movement, but they have transformed it into something original. And it’s exciting to hear a unique band.

They are also refreshingly grateful. There perfusive thanks to the crowd was authentic. You could really tell they love playing music and performing it. I’d say my favorite song of the night was “Outro” into “Colours” in the encore. “Outro” features Gonzalez’s vocals above a gradually rising song that eventually blows up. This is followed by “Colours,” a track off of Saturdays=Youth that is equatable to an electro-dance piece. It was a great decision to close the night.

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