Chums hosted its first show of the semester last Friday with two of the most relaxing bands to come this fall. Things kicked off with Vacationer, a mellow Philadelphia-based indie band with driving percussion and interesting riffs. The band, living up to their namesake, evokes the memories and feelings of a rest on the beach. They are just as good live as they are on recordings, despite the unusual samples that they employ.
Kenny Vasoli, the band’s bassist and singer, repeatedly insisted that the audience “just be chill … let’s get a chill vibe going here.” The audience reciprocated this, surrounded by music that sounded like a dreamier Vampire Weekend. Vasoli and his bandmates controlled the crowd’s energy well, cycling quickly and fluidly from slow jams to more exciting tunes. Each of their songs had a different upbeat mood, but they also had distinct, otherworldly qualities. “Trip,” for instance, takes on a reggae feel with chimes and woodwinds that aid a driving beat, while “Gone” relies more on sustained synths and a Latin-infused rhythm.
The crowd responded with high energy throughout the set—nearly everyone was dancing to some degree, and one man was so full of passion that he jumped around the circumference of Chums. The band was clearly passionate about the music as well: smiling, joking and performing little flourishes while playing their instruments.
Vasoli is not a stranger to any kind of music and has provided guest vocals and bass playing for a variety of bands, including Valencia and Say Anything. He is also the lead singer and guitarist for Person L and The Starting Line. Although Vacationer is just starting out (their debut album “Gone” was only released last March), the collective has massive potential and it will be interesting to see how they develop in the next few years.
After Vacationer wrapped up their set, Braids took the stage. Formed in Calgary, Alberta, in 2006 by schoolmates, the band gained attention quickly, achieving notoriety at multiple folk music festivals. The most famous moment of their rise in fame was when they were invited to open for Deerhunter. In 2008 the band relocated to Montreal after three of its members were accepted to McGill University. They continued touring and began work on their debut album, “Native Speaker,” which was finished in 2011. It received positive reviews from most major music publications, and has been likened to early Animal Collective or Broken Social Scene.
Braids plays the kind of music to which someone would fall asleep, except louder. Braids eschews normal post-rock tendencies in favor of more artistic sounds. This doesn’t always translate into good live music; however, some audience members thought that their first song lasted roughly 20 minutes, when in actuality they had played three very fluid but distinct tracks. By the end of their relatively short set, roughly half the crowd had dispersed. Despite this, Braids performed admirably. By selectively ordering their setlist Vacationer was able to control the audience with aplomb, while Braids controlled the pace of their music expertly. The band is not afraid of letting things flow, as evidenced by the lengthy opening tracks that they build and break in equal measure. The guitar and bass complement the electronic sounds of the keyboards, rather than the other way around, and mild distortion keeps everything at a certain level of strangeness. A comparison to Animal Collective is apt, with touches of Yeasayer and Bjork throughout. One reviewer remarked, “This is a band that is all about abstraction, experimentation and most important, obfuscation.” Their music is certainly more dreamlike than Vacationer’s, focusing more on building landscapes of sound than anything with discernible rhythm. Metaphorically speaking, Braids floats above the clouds, while Vacationer runs along the beach. This makes for an interesting show at Chums—a place where people go in large part to build up energy.
While not the most engaging band, listening to Braids was a good way to wind down the evening. The band seemed to be play for the music’s sake, rather than for the audience. There was very little interaction between the performers and the patrons of Chums, resulting in a detached mood in the venue. While there are certainly merits to an approach that focuses on the performance and not the listener, this is better suited for a theater full of people than a coffeehouse. Albeit, the remaining audience certainly enjoyed the music: People on couches reclined with content expressions while those in front of the stage smiled and nodded sagely to the beat.
The first show at Chums this semester set a wonderful tone for upcoming acts. For those seeking a more involved experience, No One and the Somebodies, Cave Cricket and Turbosleaze will all be playing in early October.