Wooden Indian, Yellow Minute
August 29, 2013
Musical Instrument Museum Theater
Going to the Musical Instrument Museum from central Phoenix feels like an occasion, even when it isn't--you're on the interstate all that time, the cars are getting gradually more expensive, and then when you get there, and park your car in the enormous lot, you walk into a lobby that will either read as "school field trip" or "I think I should be wearing a tie," depending on your frame of reference.
Going to the MIM to see Wooden Indian and Yellow Minute actually was an occasion. But I was still worried about violating the dress code.
I shouldn't have been, of course--the crowd for this particular "I Am AZ Music" show was a surprisingly cohesive mix of people who looked like Wooden Indian and Yellow Minute fans and people who looked like they spent a lot of time at the MIM's impressive theater.
Promptly at 7:00 the emcee introduced both bands, and Wooden Indian launched into its defamiliarizing, atmospheric set. I can't think of a band that takes better advantage of an expensive sound system than Wooden Indian--even with six people (including members of Yellow Minute) on stage, and guitar loops being built up as we watched, I heard several people in the audience wondering where all the sounds were coming from.
I understood the confusion. There's a moment in lots of Wooden Indian songs where everything locks into the same strange ungainly gait, like the Baby Elephant March repurposed for insectoid movie aliens, and you suddenly realize how loud you've got your headphones, and how each weird chiming guitar loop has combined to form a weirder and more chiming whole.
Live, over the MIM's respectful hush, they found that moment and hung around in it.
If we hadn't written about it a few months ago, I'd be skeptical of the idea that Yellow Minute was ever a lo-fi, tape-loopy solo project. The Yellow Minute that performed Monday night was almost ostentatiously band-y: Three-part harmonies, a tight rhythm section, dueling guitar parts, even lead vocals from guitarist P.J. Waxman.
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And while the songs remain twisting and novel, with verses and choruses connecting and branching off in strange places, the full band reveals a danceable, organic side to Yellow Minute that few could have projected from you+you+you+you=me.
At one point someone in the crowd shouted, "Where's the dance floor?" They were kidding, but they were onto something: At this point, you don't want to watch Yellow Minute sitting down if you can help it. While Wooden Indian is a strikingly good fit for sitting in a plush seat with your eyes closed, imagining the beginning and end sequences from 2001, the reincarnated Yellow Minute demands the kind of movement that the person in the seat next to you at the MIM might not be ready for.
That mismatch and a couple of equipment malfunctions could have been trouble, but Yellow Minute didn't seem fazed by the lack of energy they were getting from a crowd that was supposed to sit quietly and applaud politely after every song.
I went away from this show determined to see more "I Am AZ Music" shows, to listen to Wooden Indian on ever larger and more expensive sets of headphones, and to go see Yellow Minute someplace where I can stand up. It's nice to have your nights planned out for you like that.
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