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Archive for July, 2012

(Editor’s Note: This piece appears on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here)

It’d be difficult to guess just from the stage setup who you were seeing. With the sprawling Persian rug, two holstered guitars and the stool at center stage, it looked like the setting of MTV Unplugged. On appearances, you wouldn’t immediately suspect this to be the playpen for Frank Ocean: R&B wunderkind, Odd Future crew member and, most recently cultural sensation. But, it also makes sense. Since his arrival by way of the debut mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra, Ocean has separated himself from the pop pack by infusing lyrical sincerity, crafty songwriting and infectious personality into his music. So creating an intimate setting for the most highly sought after concert in New York City in some time felt like a clever personal touch, unexpectedly expected.

Frankophiles, the legion of fans who sang aloud with every song and pointed their iPhones toward the stage to record every moment of the show, accounted for the vocal majority of the sold-out crowd last night at Terminal 5. Before Ocean took to the stage, they chanted,
“Franky, Franky,” in a familiar sort of way. And from his quiet melodic opener of “Summer Remains” to the not-your-average-10-minute-single “Pyramids,” he wooed the floors of people individually and collectively. The immediate impact of his masterful debut album, Channel Orange, was displayed as fans sang along to most of the varied set list. He gave a vocal performance that made one hour feel like an entire night: chanting to “Super Rich Kids,” emoting on a tweaked version of “American Wedding” and mystifying with “Bad Religion.” It affirmed that Frank Ocean has the talent for stardom and the vision for greatness.

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(Editor’s Note: This piece appears on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here)

It’s obvious, but I’ll write it anyway: What I hear is not what you hear. My ears are different than yours. Recently, I’ve felt a small pressurized balloon squeeze against my right cochlea. I pinch my nose and blow out through my ears to clear the tubes. I get a pop, crackle and then nothing. It stays the same. So, what I’m about to tell you is what I heard.

Live, Lotus Plaza is dense. It doesn’t necessarily follow from the latest album, Spooky Action at a Distance. On it, Lockett Pundt, guitarist for Deerhunter and project manager of Lotus Plaza, balances vocal melodies and guitar work. The result is a somewhat heavy, often breezy set of songs, kissing cousins with Real Estate’s surf-rock update. That was not so much the case live. From the wailing guitar bends on show-opener “White Galactic One” onward, the four-man stage crew supporting Lotus Plaza buried Pundt’s vocals in a downpour of instrumentation. Gone was the light touch that gave Spooky Action at a Distance a summer-soaked feel—in its place was a broad sonic singularity.

A blanket of sound covered the audience by the time the band got to “Strangers.” I felt reverberations at the edge of my skin and on the back of my head. And while a machine-gun cadence of drums periodically peaked out of the mix, the music echoed the lighting: a soft red glow, which left the room mostly dark but with a hint of visibility. My mind wandered to visions of fields and ocean, which seemed like the point. If shoegaze, a working title for Lotus Plaza’s brand of music, is taken literally, you look down and get lost in your thoughts and the floor. You’re locked into a rhythm, so your head starts to bob. It is loud, hypnotic music for daydreamers. And it sounded good to me.

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