Things start off moody at Belmont tonight, courtesy of Buzzy Lee. Hailing from Los Angeles, she does moody ambience as well as anyone, with just her and her guitarist under red light for the entirety of the set. Her personality is a total contrast to the music though, bubbly and jolly between every song, a lot like Regina Spektor or Half Waif. At one point, she sparks a debate about where she should grab a bagel later, with a few yelling “FAIRMOUNT!” and a few countering “ST. VIATEUR!”… until one guy buzz-kills it with “ITS ALL THE SAME!!!”, sparking laughter around the place, stage included. Musically, On The Radio feels lots like a smoky jazz bar late at night, while Strange Town has a real fairground effect to its keys. Coolhand closes out the set with the poppiest moment yet, after Buzzy proclaims “you guys have been the best crowd ever!” The slightly raised eyebrow of the guitarist suggests maybe we weren’t that good, but the cheers that greet her departure certainly confirms that we appreciated the set!
Back in 2010, Brooklyn’s Dirty Projectors headlined a sold-out Le National, and it remains one of the best shows I ever saw there. I still remember the classic Stillness Is The Move that night, with guitarist Amber Coffman and bassist Angel Deradoorian exchanging vocals in perfect harmony. Things have been pretty turbulent in the band since then, as both have since left the band, though it seems like that’s not unusual; Wikipedia lists TWENTY-SEVEN past members! Tours have been few and far between since then too, so tonight is unquestionably a can’t-miss.
The 2018 incarnation of Dirty Projectors take to the Belmont stage to loud applause just before 10:30 pm; the venue may be a lot smaller than Le National, but the crowd are no less enthusiastic; everyone realizes what a coup it is to see a band with such a lauded back catalogue in a venue as small as this! The set draws heavily from the forthcoming Lamp Lit Prose record, accounting for 7 of the 17 songs played tonight. In a sense, it’s a shame, since the album hasn’t been released yet, and so besides the awesome Break-Thru (which is getting heavy rotation on some Sirius channels), nobody has heard any of those songs. That’s not a problem in itself, but, for me personally, Dirty Projectors records are always growers, and take at least five listens or so to really appreciate. Just a case of tour timing, I suppose. From just a single listen, I Found It In U sounded particularly stellar, with a crashing drum intro and an insane guitar breakdown courtesy of frontman Dave Longstreth while percussionist Felicia Douglass and guitarist Maia Friedman duel vocals in trademark Dirty Projectors fashion. Zombie Conqueror follows a similar pattern, while I Feel Energy sounds almost jazz in structure, save for Dave’s distorted guitar noodles and intermittent pauses in the song. Definitely looking forward to that new record…
Obviously, old songs are always the best received at any given show, and tonight is no exception. The much-lauded 2009 Bitte Orca record gets two offerings in the form of the glorious Cannibal Resource and an equally stunning No Intention (alas, no Stillness Is The Move tonight…), while the 2012 Swing Lo Magellan record gets three (the title track, plus the poppy Dance For You and Impregnable Question). The 2010 Mount Wittenberg Orca EP they did with Björk is represented too, in the form of Beautiful Mother, in which Dave drops to his knees to pick the guitar notes while drummer Mike Daniel Johnson hammers out the beat. The vocals and handclaps provided by Felicia, Maia and keyboardist Kristin Slipp round out the epic fairground folk number. The song never really jumped out to me on record before, but sounds absolutely phenomenal live and draws massive cheers at its conclusion. Will be digging that EP up again in the coming days…
The other set highlights come courtesy of last years self-titled Dirty Projectors record, the embodiment of a “grower” if ever you heard one. Both Dave and Felicia ditch their instruments on the dancehall-infused Cool Your Heart, bouncing around as much as the cramped stage allows before Dave proclaims “let’s switch the mood up a bit” and follows with the wonderful, sultry Keep Your Name. He remains seated throughout on an amp in the middle of the stage, fiddling with an effects box and singing in his regular voice (and not using the deep-voice and alien-voice distortion that the recorded version of the song features). After a single foray into the 2007 Rise Above album with the song of the same name, people in the crowd request other songs from that era. Dave laughs and tries to humour them by playing a few notes from their intro’s, before electing to close out the show with new song Right Now instead, after 80 fantastic minutes.
Dirty Projectors being Dirty Projectors, who knows what will happen, or how long it will be before they next grace a stage in Montreal? Whatever and whenever, tonight was a wonderful reminder of what a great band they are, and why we were so lucky to be with them in the cozy confines of Belmont tonight.
What Is The Time
I Found It In U
Dance For You
I Feel Energy
That’s A Lifestyle
Cool Your Heart
Keep Your Name
Swing Lo Magellan
Review & photos – Simon WilliamsShare this :