The tUnE-yArDs show Thursday night at Music Farm Columbia with Son Lux is a perfect example of a show that skipped our tertiary market in recent memory. It’s also exactly the type of show that people complained about for years having to drive to Charlotte or Asheville to see. So, how was attendance now that both a popular and relevant creative act was finally in Columbia? It was alright, just alright. A solid amount for a show, but still plenty of space left in the room. It was one of those shows that folks were excited to talk about and one that looked great on the calendar, but just didn’t have the real fans in this market to sell out. Fair enough, but those that missed the show missed an incredible performance from a group of top-notch performers and artists.
Opening the night was Son Lux, the electro-pop project of Ryan Lott who just last week released a new single “Change is Everything.” In addition to gaining some buzz from this opening slot, the live trio swept through SXSW with some hype and big showscases, and he’s well worth the buzz, but it’s nothing new to many music fans. NPR Music All Songs Considered declared him best new artist of 2008 and he’s since worked with notable musicians and created soundtracks for several feature-length films. Live the trio chopped up rhythms and accented them with superb guitar playing and drums bringing a surprising strength and energy to the performance. Lott and company filled the room with lush soundscapes and scattered beats as the crowd trickled in slowly for tUnE-yArDs.
As soon as the lights dimmed and tUnE-yArDs took the stage the crowd immediately showed their love with shouts of “we love you Merrill” received warmly by tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus. Live, tUnE-yArDs come as a five piece built with a mixture of vocalists and a rhythm section made of bass and percussionists building world spanning beats around Garbus’ vocals and occasional ukulele. Garbus has a way of working the bodies in the crowd like puppets, building slowly and dropping tribal beats that catch even the least coordinated dancers (like me) into a swaying motion. She knew when to drop in songs like “Gangsta” and “Real Thing” for best effect, and when to hold the stage with just her bass player and ukelele to complete the arc of live emotion.
Though this show was tUnE-yArDs first performance in Columbia, it was Garbus’ second trip in her life to the Midlands as she had visited Blythewood with a friend in the past. She seemed happy to be back. Late in the set she brought up an interview she had earlier in the day where she was asked what she thought about the bad reviews online about her last album. “Some people really don’t like your album” the interview told her, “what do you think about that?”….”don’t read the internet” Garbus told the crowd. I loved the moment for several reasons. For one, as I’m here writing on the internet I rather people go to live shows or listen to albums and form their own opinions and not rely on someone elses. Second, when you’re doing something as creative as Garbus’ and you’ve got people who love you what you’re doing, there’s no reason to listen to anyone. Keep doing what you’re doing and doing it well and let the scribe trolls overanalyze every song and beat. Garbus’ art speaks for itself and if it’s drawing strong opinions the art grows and strengthens with each word studying it.
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