Real Estate at Modified Arts

Real Estate's self-titled record snagged one of those coveted Best New Music tags stuck to their debut full-length, an homage to The Shins if depressed and dropping lysergic, with Fruit Bats-style naturalist trimmings.

Certainly the press helped, but, after some distinct uncertainty about the band's impending arrive, Real Estate turned up at Modified Arts and showed that the buzz swarming about the band is backed up by actual substance, and not just droning bees. The band set up in less than ten minutes and started without notice.

Bassist Alex Bleeker almost immediately apologized for their tardiness, as they had spent the day driving from L.A. The dirty surfer via New Jersey sound is far darker and heavier live, as opposed to the genteel lo-fi on Real Estate's album. Vocalist Martin Courtney's lyrics became so embedded in the guitar melodies gushing with fuzz, it was a challenge to differentiate them. Delivering on tip-toe, with a blank stare, the un-Googleable crew cruised through their set, with spit-shined gems like "Beach Comber" and "Let's Rock The Beach" bolstering. 

Real Estate rolled out almost as quickly as they came, sans encore and with a quick goodbye consisting of, "Hey guys, we have albums and stuff over there." The room cleared and 99 percent of the crowd converged on the merch booth, trying to get their dried up winter-in-Arizona fingers on a copy of Woodsist Records' most notable release to date.

Having planned for the worst, that is, having planned for Real Estate to not show up at all, it must be noted that Stephen Steinbrink opened and played a stellar set. With Chase Kamp playing drums, and Preston Bryant on bass, Steinbrink achieved a groove unfathomable to those who have only experienced his music unplugged. "Neighbors in the Bedroom" got bass-heavy, with repetitive, hypnotic licks, and Steinbrink's angelic pitches asking, "Are those your rules?"

With two tracks left, Steinbrink asked if Real Estate had yet arrived, and, at that point they hadn't. Those in the uncertain loop couldn't help but squirm with the possibility that refunds and grumpy fans were imminent. Literally walking into Modified as Steinbrink closed with "I Really Want To Be Your Friend," Real Estate sneaked in at just the proper moment. 

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Real Estate at Modified Arts

Better Than: Real Estate not showing up at Modified Arts

Personal Bias: While I really dig Real Estate's album, I would've been completely satisfied just seeing Stephen Steinbrink.

Random Detail: For those who have witnessed Chase Kamp's style of drumming, which consists of moving like Jell-O while incomprehensibly tapping beats most astute, Real Estate's drummer, Etienne Pierre Duguay, has a strikingly similar loose manner. Duguay also happens to look a lot like Dungeon Master Harris Trinsky from Freaks and Geeks. 

Further Listening: Bassist Alex Bleeker's side venture Alex Bleeker & The Freaks.

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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski