Tune Yards: live magic
Sometimes, you go to a gig you just can’t get out of your head. Tune Yards, at Scala near Kings Cross on Wednesday, was one. Not that it’s easy stuff to describe …
My housemate introduced me to Tune Yards, after she saw her stealing the Dirty Projectors’ thunder in a support slot last year. tUnE yArDs – to use the official but more annoyingly styled name – is essentially Merrill Garbus, an American singer-songwriter. Her first album, 2009’s BiRd-BrAiNs, showcased her astonishing vocals, as she shifts between freak folk warbler, deconstructed R&B diva, and, well, something that might best be described as yodelling. It’s bedroom recording at its grainy best, with Garbus using shareware mixing software as well as – from the sound of it – going into her kitchen and hitting a load of empty milkbottles.
The same housemate bought me a ticket for this week’s performance and was too excited for Tune Yards to be able to get into the also enjoyable support act, Trash Kit. Actually, her impatience turned out to be completely understandable. From the moment Garbus opened her mouth and bellowed at us, I was completely captivated.
Starting alone onstage, looping vocals and whacking a single drum, she was joined gradually by four backing band members. Two of them also spent their time banging drums and sticks with almost choreographed panache. Despite sounding like she uses electro beats, the gig was entirely live on “real” instruments, lending a thrilling immediacy.
While I direct you to the album (tracks “Hatari”, “Sunlight” and “News” are highlights on record as well as live), it doesn’t really compare to her in concert. Garbus is one of the most unabashed, bold performers I’ve seen in a long time – she’s not afraid to growl or gurn or throw open her mouth as wide as an angry hippopotamus – while the sounds she coaxes out from her taped-up ukulele, with a broken fingernail, are enjoyably odd too.
She’ll be playing at Glastonbury right about, erm, now; fingers crossed Garbus and her band get the attention that voice so loudly demands – and deserves.Tagged in: gig, Glastonbury, indie, music, Trash Kit, Tune Yards
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