Posted by: Necci – Apr 27, 2012
When news of Real Estate coming through Richmond was announced, everyone was buzzing about it. Not only was the group running off the hype of their critically acclaimed second full-length Days, they would be performing at Strange Matter. For many, this was considered an exciting choice, though for those who weren’t able to get tickets, it may have appeared more like a frustrating choice. By the end of the night, it turned out that their quaint, beautiful pop soundtrack found a perfect home in an intimate setting of this caliber.
photo by Ryan Muldoon
In retrospect, The Diamond Center seem like an odd choice for locals to round out this bill. There is an assertive vibe to the way the Richmond outfit approaches their songwriting. Displaying a psychedelic sound that rose to righteous heights of vibrant guitars and debilitating percussion, they were definitely the heaviest band of the evening. This didn’t keep the audience from enjoying yet another set from the group. Focusing mainly on new material with the exception of one track from their 2009 LP, My Only Companion, The Diamond Center was able to play to their strengths as an interesting counter-approach to the touring bands. The perfect example of the way they fit with Real Estate and The Twerps was their performance of new single “California.” The songs’ gentle composition allows Brandi Price’s vocals to escalate while guitarist Kyle Harris and drummer Tim Falen develop an intense background. They take the song from a haunting introduction to a reflection of a particular sadness that brings the West Coast to mind. At its conclusion, they segued masterfully into “Bells,” the B-side of the "California" single. This song's furious nature builds and builds, showcasing Harris’ vocal talents in a grand gesture that embodies the nature of their current lineup. Despite what may have seemed like a bizarre addition to this bill, The Diamond Center were able to show the versatility of their craft and how it can never be pigeonholed as belonging to a particular environment.
photo by Ben Butcher
Australia’s The Twerps were Real Estate's faithful companions on this tour. Their shiny pop could easily be compared to jangly postpunk pioneers The Feelies. Folksy song composition accompanied by clever vocal melodies assisted in The Twerps’ ultimately successful efforts to win over the Richmond crowd. The quartet left the audience craving more, and proved that good songwriting will always prevail. At one point, guitarist/singer Marty Frawley told an awkward tale about how he might despise his girlfriend and love her just the same, and this level of honesty felt thought-provoking and sincere. The Twerps' set offered a genuine quality, and lent itself to showcasing their debut full-length as well as selections from their early four-track days. The cheekiness and garage rock sensibility came through resplendently as they didn’t suffer from straying too far away from their recordings. Perhaps that was what really benefited the group in this live environment. The pop cues taken by The Twerps resonated well with the audience, and many walked away with vinyl records tucked under their arms before Real Estate took the stage.
photo by Shawn Brackbill
Despite the massive reaction to Days, I had not been completely sold on Real Estate. It wasn’t that the group had difficulties appealing to me--actually, it was the complete opposite. Their songs were wonderful, but I just couldn’t pinpoint what they could do live that would win me over. As the set began, everything sounded gorgeous and lush. Every harmony pushed the boundaries and highlighted the group’s growing prowess for writing beautiful music. Real Estate toyed around with material off both of their full-lengths, and a cover or two to boot. The best part about their set may have been that it felt somewhat romantically inclined. It was like being familiar with a musical thought and being on the fence about what I was feeling. Yet, as the set went on and continued to indicate the reasons that the group has received such acclaim, I could see myself falling love with Real Estate. It should also be noted that this might have been one of the best sounding sets I’ve heard at Strange Matter. The aesthetic of Real Estate resonated wonderfully throughout the small venue. It even sounded amazing during their sound check, with barely anyone in the house.
Did Real Estate make me into a fan at this show? I can’t really say. I was left with warm thoughts and a splendid experience. I wont lie--Days has been falling into greater personal rotation since the show. At the end of the night, Real Estate was just a wonderful aural display to behold. I am excited to see where the future might take the Brooklyn pop outfit. They might be the perfect antidote that the indie pop genre not only craves, but deserves.