Yeasayer at Rhythm Room

I walked into the Rhythm Room on Thursday evening for the Yeasayer show and surveyed the crowd. Immediately, I saw signs of potential trouble: The joint was lousy with hipsters. There were three Ben Gibbard look-alikes within 10 feet of me, and between them, they'd consumed enough PBR to drown a horse. Now, normally hipsters and I maintain a laissez-faire attitude toward one another, but on this night, their well-known disdain for dancing worried me. This was Yeasayer, a band whose latest release, Odd Blood, might be the most dance-friendly indie rock album of the year. So how would Yeasayer fare against a crowd of notoriously dance-averse hipsters?

I won't hold you in suspense: The hipsters didn't put up much of a fight.

From what I could tell, everyone at the show was into it from the opening strains of "Strange Reunions," the first of eight songs from Odd Blood the band played. I can't say that I've ever seen so many pairs of glasses bobbing up and down in unison.

Other than some cool lighting behind the stage, though, Yeasayer didn't do a whole lot to encourage it. The stage was ready for 15 minutes before they finally came out; singer Chris Keating clearly wasn't happy with the sound quality, judging by the daggers he kept shooting multi-instrumentalist Anand Wilder (who, by the way, is a damn good vocalist himself); and there wasn't a ton of audience interaction. "It's great to be here in... Arizona," Keating said at one point, later adding that he's a big Charles Barkley fan. Cool?

The music, though, was solid. The crowd really got into new singles "Ambling Alp" and "O.N.E." Songs like "The Children," the Odd Blood opener that mangles Keating's vocal into something entirely foreign, really blossomed live, as did "Wait for the Summer," an often-overlooked track from the band's debut, All Hour Cymbals. I would have loved to hear more from that album, but other than the aforementioned eight new songs, the band only played four others -- including a one-song encore. Guys, I know you only have two LPs, but it's a sold-out show, and you were on stage for about an hour, which was barely more than the opener (more on them in a bit).

All told, Yeasayer knew how to get the too-cool-for-school kids moving; it's just a shame they couldn't do it for a little longer.

Critic's Notebook

Last Night: Yeasayer at Rhythm Room in Phoenix

Better Than: I'll wager this was better than Vampire Weekend, another New York-based "worldbeat" band, earlier this week at the Marquee. But I've never been a VW fan.

Random Fact: Keating also mentioned that he really likes "the desert." I wonder if he also mentioned the desert and Charles Barkley at the Tucson show Wednesday night.

Further Listening: Odd Blood is the band's more "accessible" album, so I'd recommend starting there if you're looking to get into Yeasayer.
By the Way: I didn't have high hopes for the opener, Los Angeles female foursome Warpaint, when they got on stage looking like somebody fished them out of a canal. (Maybe they hit the LA Fitness down the street before the show; I don't know.) But a kick-ass rhythm section got me in their corner fairly quickly. Apparently Warpaint is well-known in Hollywood and counted the late Heath Ledger among its fans. There's an offensive joke in there somewhere, but I'm not sure what it is.

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