Extra Life, James Fella, Death House, Barren Nieces Trunk Space Tuesday, July 10
Few bands can pull off genre-bending and blending without sounding contrived, but New York based group Extra Life does it easily with virtuosic precision and genuine finesse.
In support of a new album entitled Dream Seeds, released in April, Extra Life rolled through Trunk Space on an otherwise quiet weekday night during the first week of a nation-wide set of shows following a recent European tour, headlining a mixed-bag show with an equally varied set ranging from heavy prog-rock soaked syncopations to fragile yet substantial ballads.
The show kicked off shortly after 8 with a performance from James Fella. Standing above a small round table of daisy-chained pedals, the artist proceeded to conjure a series of swells that slowly permeated the room from a set of medium-sized combo amps.
The room sounds generated from the electronic reverberations initially stayed within contained volumes, just barely peeking out from under a blanket of drone. Eventually, the calm of the storm let loose to a constantly oscillating momentum until whirring frequencies broke the wall of calm, concluding with the low guttural rumble of residual noise.
Drum and guitar duo Death House hit the stage at 9 p.m. sharp with mid-tempo jams, chord-filled melodies and correspondingly straightforward drum beats. Clean even chord strumming and intermittent arpeggios set the tone for passionate crooning, covering a range of delay drenched rock 'n' roll to slower, pleasantly-toned songs.
The lights were lowered as Barren Nieces started his set. Sitting upright in a chair on the ground, the solo artist informed the audience that this wasn't his normal set up -- his guitar pedals unfortunately had recently been lost. Everyone got cozy and comfortable, sacrificing the still standing of the evening so far for Indian-style seating on the floor.
Vocals run through an effects processor projected softly sung syllables through the room over an earthy guitar tone, occasionally accentuated with the assistance of a looping pedal. Words came out delicately yet deliberately over light finger picked guitar parts, casting a mellow mood over the crowd.
At 10:30, Extra Life took the stage (and the floor), launching into their set full force with low tone synth-driven noisy prog rock and leading man Charlie Looker's strong signature singing voice. The crowd remained motionless, but I couldn't tell if the lack of movement was from a general lack of energy throughout the evening, entrancement or both.
The members of Extra Life demonstrated their instrumental expertise throughout their set, playing mostly songs from Dream Seeds along with a couple of songs from older releases. The avant art-rock perfected by the trio featured dark, moody melodies, and incorporated elements of metal and folk, lines that don't often get crossed.
Occasionally, Looker brought out an acoustic guitar to supplement bassy synth tones, adding a lighter sound to the dark repertoire. The set ended with "Blinded Beast," an epic 15-minute or so song grounded in languid, simple synth lines and supplemented with intense drum and cymbal hits, carefully placed metallic guitar accents, and subtly sung harmonies.
The piece was powerful, and gut-wrenchingly grabbed listeners by their insides, with full force felt behind each musician's action. The song climaxed with head-bobbing synchronized dance beats to relieve the previous state of somber melancholy, providing a satiating resolution to the set.
Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Extra Life, James Fella, Death House and Barren Nieces at Trunk Space
The Crowd: Youthful yet as calm as Hindu cows
Personal bias: I'm a big fan of previous projects from members of Extra Life including Zs and Yukon
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Occasionally seen: A toe-tapping or head nodding to the music
Seen too often: The glow of cell phones out during sets
Peed on the floor at one point: A teeny tiny fuzzy puppy, some sort of Golden Retriever/German Shepherd mix