Thursday night found my roommate, my boyfriend and I at Williamsburg’s latest large-scale DIY venue: The Pyramids. This kind of performance space has recently popularized as the concert-goers’ hybrid, offering greater structure and accessibility than your best friend’s living room while retaining a more community-friendly, open platform than the average corporatized concert hall.
Overall, The Pyramids space lacks any unique quirks or characteristics, which I believe are fundamental to a successful venue environment. It’s a bit like attending a party in your high school friend’s parent’s basement: hot and windowless, with bare white walls and a makeshift bar that on Thursday boasted cheap whiskey, cheap vodka, and PBR. A review of the show in Brooklyn Vegan repeatedly focused on the impressively clean bathrooms, which were absolutely an aspect to appreciate, especially in New York City. But if that’s the best thing you have to say about a concert space… is it really about rock ‘n roll?
Thursday’s line-up started with a set from Brooklyn’s quartet Rescue Bird. Fronted by lead singer Sarah Dyson, whose beautiful voice was trained in classical opera, these four women use accordion, piano, cello and ukulele to create charming folk rock that is harmonic and sweetly sad. There’s an old-world flavor to the lilt of their melodies with lyrics that invite close listening—something that Pyramids does not easily offer.
I saw them perform once before in a hair salon and, believe it or not, that venue’s personality suited the group better. Here, the delicacy of Rescue Bird’s sound was swallowed by the stifling box of a warehouse. Their set was brief and under-attended by a polite audience sitting cross-legged on the cement (or maybe they were just trying to stay as close as possible to the large floor fans that were the concert’s sole source of air circulation).
Following that was another Brooklyn band, Family Trees, whose MySpace page and samples lean heavily on a Beach Boys influence. But what compositional and vocal order is evident in their virtual presence seemed lost in transmission during live performance, resulting instead in sweaty sonic confusion.
The underwhelmed, overheated audience grew restless pretty quickly, but this changed when the energetic Roanoke, VA punk duo Eternal Summers took the floor. Their already avid indie following was evident as the evening’s first enthusiastic crowd gathered. Like many of their two-member peers, Eternal Summers create music with an edge of self-aware understatement which has become one this generation’s trademark forms of musical rebellion: deadpan punk. But they infused their blasé songs with full rock passion, drummer Daniel delivering a percussion performance so gymnastic that my roommate likened him to a hummingbird. Signed to Kanine, the group has gained fast ground and been added to the camp of “clean” guitar mixed with ambient vocals, along with the likes of Beach House, Best Coast and Real Estate.
Hot on the trail of Eternal Summers were pal duo Reading Rainbow, who rocked their set Postal Service style, facing one another with Sarah on drums and Robbie on guitar. Soon to be opening for the likes of Frankie and the Outs and Dum Dum Girls, the Philly duo is yet another punk pairing. These two don’t fall quite as neatly into the aforementioned sandy category, retaining an essential core of sound that is edgier and more raw, less pop than garage. Their set culminated in a riotous doubles play-off number with Eternal Summers, and the crowd reached its limply enthusiastic peak for the evening, muffled by bad ventilation and poor lighting.
The evening never fully realized as either a concert or as a party, in part due to a space that still feels make-shift and a line up that felt equally slap-dash with Rescue Bird entirely out of place. DIY might be a wonderful democratic tool, but in order to be successful in the professional arena, any undertaking still needs to be handled with careful thought, intention, and savvy.
Like the transition from posters plastered on dorm room walls with sticky-tack to the finesse of a nail and frame, a few extra steps can make a significant difference in the overall effect. For the college crowd, Pyramids makes a great casual weekday outing, but if it hopes to compete with the bigger dogs of Brooklyn’s concert scene there is work to be done. We left the evening before it’s final act, German Measles, already feeling too hot and too old.
– Britt Sondreal