The Dirty Projectors loosen up at the Westcott

The Brooklyn-based rockers performed with Delicate Steve at the Westcott on Sunday April 14.

The audience was a curious mix of ages Sunday night at the Westcott Theater. Waiting to see the Brooklyn-based Dirty Projectors and opener Delicate Steve were the typical retinue of university students and 20-something locals as well as younger fans driven by, and at times attending with, their parents.

Sharing an aesthetic of mixing poly-rhythmic sounds and disparate and global influences into their music, both the Dirty Projectors and Delicate Steve performed sets that were impressive, surprising and fun. The technical skill and tightness of both bands groove were certainly one of the draws for the broad range of fans at the show.

Photo: Katie Hogin
The Brooklyn-based Dirty Projectors perform for a packed audience at the Westcott Theater in Syracuse Sunday night. New Jersey group, Delicate Steve, opened for the band.

Created and led by Dave Longstreth, the Dirty Projectors have released 6 albums to date, including 2012’s Swing Lo Magellan. That album, which made up most of the set on Sunday, garnered a significant amount of acclaim from critics at the AV Club, Spin and the Los Angeles Times. As the band’s most accessible and inviting record, the album builds on the recognizable quirks of their previous release—most notably the calculated and stiff feeling in the composition—and finally crafting them to feel more spontaneous and human.

After seeing the Dirty Projectors in Carnegie Hall in January, the expectations for this show were a little low. They didn’t have much of a stage presence there, and the songs were just as good but the energy wasn't there. On the Westcott’s more intimate stage, the band seemed at home. They played loose (as much as they could), and joked with the audience and amongst each other. At one point lead singer and band mastermind Longsreth asked if there were any creative writing majors in the audience. The band wanted to sit in on one of George Saunders’ classes.
“Then we realized it was Sunday,” he said.

Regardless of compositions or concert halls, the Dirty Projectors’ music is astounding in its use of sounds that seem impossible to accomplish without computers today. This was especially apparent in their performance of "About To Die," which involved syncopated three-part handclaps and harmonies, amongst the other typical left turns and changes fans are familiar with in their music.

Watching their exact performance of singing and hand-clapping, it was easy to be continuously reminded that these things happen on Dirty Projectors tracks without overdubs. That constraint doesn’t necessarily leave room for live experimentation and extended jams, which can be disappointing for folks looking for special live cuts. An 8-minute version of “The Gun Has No Trigger” seems unnecessary because of its precise crafting and performance requires little else beyond being played as expected.

Deep listens can reveal the precise skill necessary to pull off such layered and intricate rhythms and harmonies. Bob Boilen at NPR’s All Songs Considered likened this wizardry to doo wop, and by mixing influences and genres so skillfully, it is easy to see why so many disparate music listeners came out to see the band perform. Performing these songs clearly aren’t easy, but the Dirty Projectors make it look and feel effortless, organic and, as they joked with the audience on stage, accessible and fun.

Speaking of which, about halfway through the set, Longsreth began talking about the opening band Delicate Steve.

“Sometimes you tend to think about unqualified joy as a 17th century emotion,” he said. “Then you listen to Delicate Steve and realize how futuristic it is.”

Delicate Steve is Steve Marion, who also played, wrote and engineered the band's second album “Positive Force.” With no bones about playing long instrumental stretches at the start of a show, and hazy, fuzzed-out lyrics, at first they felt like just another jam band. About halfway into their set, it was clear that their composite of African grooves and Hawaiian slide guitar are anything but typical.

Drawing on a mix of influences as wide as their set-mates and contemporaries like Yeasayer and Animal Collective, Delicate Steve threads their music with a line of 70‘s California classic rock. The effect is a sunny and buoyant energy that gets your feet moving, face smiling, and feels as open and new as the future.

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.