Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Far, far away from West Virginia

Say hello to the beautiful Natalie Citro. She will be filling you in on the Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah show. Please give her a warm welcome...

I am a product of the eighties. Subsequently, when I hear a sound that is a hybrid of my beloved Talking Heads and Wang Chung, and when this sound is backed by a catchy little beat I can pair my dancing shoes with, my ears perk up. Such a spark of interest was responsible for bringing me east down Wilshire Boulevard on March 23 to see Clap Your Hands Say Yeah at the El Rey.

It is my belief that in the critical, impatient moments preceding a show’s commencement, a person who has no idea what concert he is attending can accurately forecast what band is about to come on stage simply by feeling out the crowd. At a Death From Above show, for example, the flood of testosterone, perspiration and angst would be an easy giveaway. At Death Cab For Cutie, the fact that there are no persons standing alone (only those entwined in the arms of their lovers grace the floor), coupled with the predominance of Urban Outfitters apparel, should be sufficient evidence. At the El Rey on Thursday night, the sold out venue was packed with smartly dressed, smiling individualists whose sole priority seemed to be having a really good time. The fans’ lighthearted excitement is directly linked to the very thing which makes a Clap Your Hands show so great- their music is FUN.

From the beginning of the set to the end, the crowd was dancing, swaying, or at least tapping their boot-clad feet to the up-tempo rhythms that filled the room with a contagious energy. The band made its way through the majority of the songs from their self-titled album, and received extra applause from the crowd when they began such songs as “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” and “Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away” (both of which have embellished all of our party playlists, to be sure).

Several new songs such as “Satan Said Dance,” also spiced up the set. One favorite of mine occurred in the encore, when the band played the song “Clap Your Hands;” indeed, the call-and-response form echoed the verse in “Yellow Submarine” where the lone seaman parrots Ringo’s words in a full, drunken tenor.

Lead singer Alec Ounsworth surpassed his act from the previous LA gig at the Troubadour, when, as the blonde co-creator of this site informed me, he gave a remarkably lackluster performance and seemed quite un-excited to be playing music for anyone. At the El Rey, either the luxury of his tour bus, the vigor of the crowd, or perhaps just a simple change of mood produced an enthusiastic approach to his songs, which was well received by his viewers. The keyboardist/guitarist/tambourine player was by far the most entertaining to watch as he bounced all over the stage, thrusting the tambourine against his chest like Tarzan, and laughing at the entire situation like he couldn’t believe he was in a hit band. Sadly, his performance far outshone that of the bass player, who sort of, well, stood there.

All throughout, the ringing guitars and Ounsworth’s lazy vocals, which seemed to suggest that articulate is decidedly unsexy, created an element of unfettered expression which formed the cohesive bond for the entire set. The somewhat tousled aspect of melodic freedom, contrasted with the relatively simple song structures and the solid backbone of percussion, produced a perfect balance that can only be explained with an image of Kate Moss waking up in the morning: a head of messed tendrils, but cat eyes rimmed with lines of still-sleek black eyeliner from the night before.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah has become my modern dose of the rockin' eighties. If fashion from that era is any indication of the decade’s general mood in music, they avoided too much of an emphasis on sophistication and overreaching complexity. Instead, it was all pretty upbeat, and pretty darn fun, just like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah managed to accomplish (with flying colors) in their live show.

(all photos by Braedon)


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