There weren’t any pyrotechnics, extraneous dancers, epileptic-seizure-inducing light shows or bare breasts at Twin Sister’s show at the Hi-Dive Monday night. They didn’t need any gimmicks, and neither did their openers, Young Pharaohs and Ava Luna. The night’s music spoke for itself with elements of jazz, honky-tonk, electronic, R&B, indie aesthetics and the three groups’ shared strength: vocal dynamism.
Denver’s Young Pharaohs –– formerly King Mob –– began the evening as the crowd started to trickle in. Their flair for re-birth didn’t stop at their new name; four of the six songs from their short set haven’t been released yet. The group’s instrumentals were captivating, but it was vocalist Ben Martin that drove Young Pharaohs’ sound. His melodies, coupled with the group’s overall sound, bore more than a slight resemblance to Hot Chip and Future Islands.
Following Young Pharaohs was the six-person group Ava Luna from Brooklyn. They barely had room to fit on the Hi-Dive’s stage, bumping into each other at times and awkwardly navigating the area, yet still gave an extremely tight performance. Drummer Julian Fader’s linear beats and metronome precision were essential to letting what could become a cluttered sound have room to breathe. The instrumental cohesion allowed the vocals to really shine, and the three part harmonies from vocalists Carlos Hernandez, Felicia Douglas and Becca Kauffman were reminiscent of the Dirty Projectors. But whereas the Projectors like to sonically thumb their noses at the audience, Ava Luna was miles more accessible and enjoyable.
The audience wasn’t the type to show much emotion. There were many leather jackets, wire rimmed glasses and floppy cardigans throughout the room. But despite the stereotypes people were ready to dance by the time Twin Sister took the stage and without a word began they first song, “Meet the Frownies.”
What was striking about Twin Sister’s set as they flawlessly played favorites “Bad Streets,” “All Around and Away We Go,” and “Stop,” was the depth to their sound. Recorded, many of their tracks take on an airy, weightless feel, but live they are full and rich. This was especially true for guitarist Eric Cardona, whose recorded guitar tones lack the personality and emotive sound they held Monday night. The breadth of their instrumentals only added to Twin Sister’s vocalist, Andrea Estella, and her oddball stage presence. Standing front and center, she was simultaneously disinterested and yet engaging, chatting with the crowd without ever making eye contact. So when members of Ava Luna hopped on stage to help with an extended outro of the night’s last track, “Other Side of Your Face,” it was surprising to see a stage without Estrella on it. She had relinquished her mic, jumped in with the crowd and watched as a night that had been dominated by strong vocalists ended with a show of instrumental force.
Nic Turiciano is a new contributor to Reverb and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nathan Iverson is a Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb.