Show Review: Brandt Brauer Frick with Psychic Friend and James & Evander at Rickshaw Stop, 11/11/2011

by Gordon Elgart on November 15, 2011

An age old argument in music is this: is this band better live or on record? Electronic music seems to be the ultimate fertile ground for this argument because essentially the live show is the record plus lights, isn’t it? Well, not if it’s done right.

Brandt Brauer Frick perform in two different varieties. There’s the Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble, an 11-piece combo that plays the material as written on composition paper. Then there’s the core trio, which leave the paper at home, and take chances on stage.  Is this electronic music done right?

Starting off the night at the Rickshaw Stop were James & Evander, a “future pop” duo from Oakland. If they’re the future of pop, sign me up. The duo surrounded themselves with synthesizers, and played a sweet, soulful pop with plenty of unison vocals. The material is A-level; however, the performance doesn’t make the grade yet. The vocals were the weak point, as if the two of them couldn’t really hear their monitors. It might have been that they couldn’t quite hear the monitors. Everything else was so spot on, I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’ll be sure to give them a second chance. As a matter of fact, I hereby volunteer to play drums for James & Evander. A live drummer would make them more awesome.

Up next were Psychic Friend, a band whose first ever show was a Noise Pop show I attended. Back then, I thought the band had good songs, but was playing them too loudly, removing joy from the experience. This time, though, they rocked. Quick bursts of electric piano pop, all sung with a clear, bright style.  It was very enjoyable. They even had a “hot MP3 girl” walking around giving out a little card letting everyone know where to download “Once a Servant” for free. Nice touch.

Brandt Brauer Frick are an odd choice for a club band. Their albums are closer to classical than “techno” but it definitely makes people dance. So that’s classical techno dance music? Electronic jazz dance? I don’t know what to call this. All I know is that if I were someone with aspirations into making something new in electronic music, they would be an inspiration. Watching them is watching masters at work.

Now, when you see the Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble, you get a note-for-note reproduction of what you hear on the albums. It’s an insane performance as there are polyrhythms laid over polyrhythms, even though this is by definition an impossibility. Watching that ensemble is a jawdropping experience.

Watching the core trio is completely different. While two of the three (Brauer and Frick) are flying around the dials and the keys creating the jazzy piano riffs that dominate BBF’s melody, Daniel Brandt is playing live electronic drums. And his performance ignorance of anything that happens on the album is what drives the live experience. It takes the songs from being somewhat calculated to being fresh and in-your-face. No, these aren’t bangers, but they still get people moving.

Their set went for exactly an hour, and at the end they built things up crazier and louder than they had ever been. It built and built to a wild crescendo, and while most DJs are going to give you a drop, Brandt Brauer Frick gives you silence and a bow. Anyone can get you to throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care. Creative musicians like Brandt Brauer Frick never stop letting you care that your hands are in the air. It’s dance music for the smart. So be smart, and check them out.

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All photos by J.M Pirro

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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