Caribou at The Clubhouse Last Night

Clubhouse Music Venue
October 9, 2010

Canadian electronic act Caribou is essentially only one person, Dan Snaith. At least in the studio. When Snaith, who I was lucky enough to interview for this week's print edition hits the road, however, he is joined by bandmates.

The question is what they do. How do you take electronic music that can be compiled with a mere laptop and put it on stage? Caribou answered that question and more at Clubhouse.

Joining Snaith onstage were two guitarists and a drummer -- Ryan Smith, John Schmersal and Brad Weber -- meaning the dynamic resembled a traditional band pretty closely. When the four finally took to the stage at 10:45 pm, they immediately jumped right into the third track from Caribou's impressive 2010 release Swim, "Kaili." From that point, it was easy to see that this would be truly a performance by a band rather than a guy hunched over an iBook, twiddling with some stuff while holding his headphones over his right ear.

Listening to Swim, you might expect a Caribou show to be a visually-boring laptop-centric affair. Snaith has said that Swim is a clubby album. Snaith did a lot of DJing after finishing tours in support of his previous album Andorra and it influenced his sound. However, Snaith is a showman -- the consummate crowd-pleaser -- and giving his fans a show where he stands in front of his computer isn't an option. So we get a whole band.

Caribou's set was heavy on Swim material (hell, the only song off the album not played was "Found Out") but Snaith and co. played brilliant, extended live versions of such songs as "Leave House," "Bowls," and "Hannibal." There was almost a jam band-feel to some of these extended versions, but that parallel only makes sense in that these songs became almost 10 minutes long in some cases. Creating -- and then filling -- that extended void is where last night's show became something rather impressive to behold.

So not only did Snaith bring along a band to create his sound last night, he went off the book and played longer versions of some of his better songs. Dan Snaith could have played it safe and stood there bobbing his head while his laptop did all the work, but that thought has never once crossed the dude's mind.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: Swim is my favorite album of 2010. I also got to interview Dan Snaith. It's safe to say that I like Caribou.

The Crowd: Younger, college-age kids who were enjoying Yeasayer's Odd Blood as the house music in between sets a bit too much. There were a few older fans sprinkled in for good measure.

Overheard in the Crowd: "Happy Thanksgiving!" Caribou are Canadian and their Thanksgiving is on Monday. Snaith smiled when he heard the sentiment.

Random Notebook Dump: "Drummer really loves holding the stick up." Drummer Brad Weber took quite a liking to holding his drumstick up over his head in between certain notes, when it was possible.

Leave House
Melody Day
Hendrix With KO
Odessa (If you think you love this song, you don't know a thing until you've seen it performed live. Dan Snaith's flute skills are superb)


Fun fact: "Skunks" and "Hendrix With KO" are from Caribou's 2003 album Up in Flames, when the band was known as Manitoba. Both songs are also from Caribou's performance at the 2009 All Tomorrow's Parties festival where they formed as the 16-piece Caribou Vibration Ensemble, including Marshall Allen of Sun Ra Arketstra and Born Ruffians lead singer Luke Lalonde, who sings the vocals on "Jamelia."
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Michael Lopez