Unfortunately, too much of the set of beautifully composed ballads and swirling odes to heartbreak was lost to technical difficulties (a microphone stubbornly refused to stay active for a few songs) and an all-too-disinterested audience to really afford them a satisfactory welcome back.
Maybe a sabbatical of nearly seven years between releases is just a little too much for a fan base to take. Sadly, most of the hipsters crowding the Hi-Dive last night were only marginally engaged in Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink’s breathy, sensuous vocal harmonies, laid so perfectly upon slight chord progressions and accompanied by drums, cello, bass, mandolin and often keyboards.
Their musical constructions, heavily rooted in the Beatles, never really sounded too derivative, since they came from a distinctively feminine perspective. Whether lamenting lost loves in songs like “Don’t Leave My Mind” or “Signs in the Leaves,” both from the new record “Drawing Down the Moon,” or recapturing insomnia with their older hit “Sleep,” the duo’s strong, smooth vocals pressed the words harder and harder into the crowded space. Too often, though, they lost an ongoing war with audience discussions that seemed to waver between loud and drunk and straight out hollering.
After an hour of keeping up the struggle — and never losing any of the beauty of their shimmering sonics and poignant observations — the band ended their set, and gave way to setup for Tim Kasher’s (now) headlining set. Kasher, whose indie cred rivals the likes of longtime friend Conor Oberst, previously performed in both Cursive and the Good Life. His current solo work, “The Game of Monagamy,” is mired in ruminations about failed relationships — possibly related to his divorce years ago — and he spent much of his headlining set that night with it. The music seems to have found its root in the personalities of Paul Westerberg and David Bowie, though more than a little Bright Eyes influence bubbled to the surface from time to time.
Opening the night, Brooklyn maestro Tim Fite put on a strange, enticing set that combined hip hop, country, amateur video and humor to build a nearly unforgettable melange. Dressed in white overalls, with a mostly shaved head (save a shock of long hair that spews from the top center of his forehead) Fite cut a dorky figure onstage, but delivered a decidedly hip sermon. The hip hop numbers, which approached satire applied to the likes of Eminem, were solid, hilarious and strong. But his ballad based on a found notebook about “Rambo” is not to be missed. To see just a taste — think Wesley Willis meets Gene Ween, reciting comic book-bound banter about a mythical hero, written by a young teen in Brooklyn.
You might think you get the idea, but you need to see it to really get it.