Show Review: Deastro and Max Tundra at Bottom of the Hill, 11/25/09

by Gordon Elgart on November 30, 2009

Playing songs in the dark

Playing songs in the dark

Growing up, I always heard that the night before Thanksgiving was a big night out.  Supposedly, everyone was visiting and would go party together. Now that I’m older, I know that this is untrue, because I went to see Deastro and Max Tundra at Bottom of the Hill.  The fifty-or-so people who were there with me were the lucky ones; the ones playing Apples to Apples with family really missed out.

The show started with a local-ish psychedelic band White Cloud.  While the band played pleasant music, I see the history of the band going something like this. When the lead singer was a child, someone told him that using reverb on his voice would make him sound better.  And he said, “I’m going to be the best sounding singer of ALL TIME!” That’s a lot of reverb, man.

Next up was Max Tundra. He came out by himself and set up an array of vintage and toy instruments. After getting ready, he introduced himself and began to play. Imagine a guy who looks like Paul Simon, plays songs that are somewhere between classic Beck and an evolutionary Howard Jones, all while dancing like Patrick Dempsey in Can’t Buy Me Love, and you have some idea what Max Tundra is like. But the only way to know for sure is to see him.

The yellow thing is a xylophone he brought all the way from England to play three notes.

The yellow thing is a xylophone he brought all the way from England to play three notes.

He has this amazing energy when he plays. He seriously taps away at his keyboards and sequencers, and then next thing you know, he flies into action, dancing up a storm. This was especially entertaining on the Bottom of the Hill stage, as he kept dancing up against the window that faces the courtyard, daring those who were smoking to come inside and watch him. There’s no question in my mind that Max Tundra deserves some sort of pit, so it’s unfortunate that he was faced only with a handful of dancers and many disaffected, confused show-goers.  When he comes back, I’m bringing more friends.  Please do the same, and we’ll start a pit together.

The headliner tonight was Deastro, who came across as a man desperately in search of a full band. I wrote this in my notes, and then he continually apologized for not having a band. He thanked everyone for listening to these works in progress. I’m glad that he said this because it means that he’s extremely aware of the shortcomings in his performance. His material is really strong; if you listen to the studio recordings, they are well-arranged, really catchy songs. Live, they feel a little bland.

The ending kick, however, took on the feel of something special. Toward the end of his set, his friend who had been playing bass took a seat, and the rest of the show was just Randy triggering backing tracks on his iMac desktop (hidden underneath a table) and singing along, turning dials to mix the tracks live. By far, this was the best stuff in the show, as he is an energetic dancing front man once the guitar is off his shoulder.

During the encore, after he had played what was promised to be the last song, a little bit of homesickness came out as Randy talked about being thankful for his crazy family, and how weird it was to spend Thanksgiving on the road. He then proceeded to play four more songs, and it was clear we were now hearing songs at the beginning of their lives. It was charming, and I was charmed.  I’m really looking forward to whatever the Deastro project looks like next. For now, it was nice to get a little taste of what’s to come.

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Full disclosure: We were on the bands’ guest list for this show.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Marie Carney November 30, 2009 at 11:23 pm

Way to sneak in a dig at Apples to Apples, the BEST GAME EVER!!!!

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