The last time we hit up the Seaport, blog, you might remember that we were blown away by the Apples In Stereo’s parting shot, with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and Philharmonic and more firework ordnance than Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
It’s every week though, at the southeastern corner of Manhattan, and given that we already knew the way on the subway (or you remembered if I didn’t, blog), it seemed to make sense to once more break away from friends and go check out Bear In Heaven
Arriving during one of Zola Jesus’ first songs, the cross-section of the crowd was a little older and significantly more tattooed than the Apples show, with fewer families. That’s because there was no youth choir singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Just Zola Jesus. Think a funereal gothwave version of Lady Gaga, wearing sunglasses in the non-sun and wailing hard, pretentiously.
As a person rendered curious by a couple of Zola Jesus records, it’s disappointing to be confronted with how much of a shtick it actually is. And if there’s one way to find that out it’s to see it on a big stage in front of a crowd who are more neutral than home or away.
But then Bear In Heaven arrived. I got into their album really late in 2009 after asking the ever-reliable Twitter what I’d missed, but as usual, it took seeing them live to really get a grasp on what they’re doing. As a three-piece, they’re centred around the weird-voiced singer and the arpeggiated, alt-80s synth parts he either triggers or plays. To his left is a bassist, taking krautrock cues some of the time and laying down totally motoric, rhythmic bass parts a lot of the time. This lets the drummer, who is amazing, go a bit crazy and hit a different drum every half-beat of the bar, because the bass is holding the rhythm down. Either way, it’s stomping.
At their best, such as on the destructively brilliant anthem Lovesick Teenagers, the wooden pier shook (or at least the music made it shake imaginatively). With real self-confidence on a stage that could (and may still) wreck lesser performers, they played a stormer. “We’re Bear In Heaven and we’re from Brooklyn”. Still the best fun when it’s you that Brooklyn refers to. And how could you not shout?