On this late Tuesday in September, I went to the Biltmore in hopes of experiencing the mysterious power of School of Seven Bells, but got something much different. They took the stage silently around eleven o’clock and started playing, and didn’t address the audience for the entirety of their set.
If you’ve heard SSB, you know that one of the most alluring elements of their sound is the twinned lead vocals of Alejandra and Claudia Deheza (who actually happen to be totally hot brunette twins) which, overlaid over the droning guitar and driving drumbeats, create a really absorbing, hypnotic sound. Unfortunately, the droning guitar was mixed a bit too loud, and those wonderful two-part vocal harmonies were almost completely washed out of the sound. It’s always sad when you like a band less after seeing them live. At least they looked good.
Openers Active Child were much more exciting. Around ten o’clock, the curtains parted to reveal these two dudes, one with a bass guitar and the other seated in front of a—no kidding—harp. The bass player hit a button on his laptop and a backing track of synthetic drum machines and digital synths started up, the harp started lilting, and the harpist started singing in this smooth falsetto. From there he put down the harp and got on the keyboard, then guitar, while the bassist continued to lay down a solid groove. They had a sound that reminded me of Delorean and Yeasayer, without seeming derivative of those bands. They may have played to a thinner crowd, but their lo-fi electronic, retro-’80s sound, combined with their humble attitude, made them the real stars of the night.