Tune-Yards have been making their rounds supporting their excellent sophomore album, “Whokill,” stopping again for another show in New York City last Friday, this time at Terminal 5, a relatively large venue for the Afrobeating four-piece.
Consisting of Merrill Garbus with a breathtaking arsenal of gadgets and looping pedals, bassist Nate Brenner, and saxophonists Noah Bernstein and Matt Nelson, the band took the stage and collectively blew the audience away with their jittery anthems and unbridled charisma.
With a set consisting mostly of “Whokill” favorites, the night’s most surprising moment came from a mistake during one of the few “Bird-Brains” tracks they played, the brooding crawler, “Real Live Flesh.” During the song’s slowly mounting build-up, a most unexpected technical error occurred.
Garbus, who performs using a pair of snare drums, two microphones, a ukulele, and a slew of pedal effects, was currently using all her devices at once, navigating through loops and layers while in a deep, concentrated trance. Nate Brenner was likewise laying down one of his usual sparse but essential bass lines while bursts of saxophone pierced through the mixture. Suddenly, as Garbus was tapping a button with her foot to cut off a loop or perhaps activating another, the song was instantaneously brought to a halt, being replaced by a fully orchestrated Casio-esque keyboard demo, evoking the sound of a doo-wop revivalist band via the 1980s.
The expression on Garbus’ face was halfway between mortification and giddy hysteria, the technical glitch being equal parts embarrassing and side-splittingly hilarious. The best part was that the other band members didn’t miss a beat: Brenner danced along with the tune, which was later identified as the “country swing” demo from Garbus’ Roland keyboard, while both Bernstein and Nelson took their saxes and jammed out hard along with the goofy shuffle. They let the progression play on for about a minute before cutting it off.
Garbus went on to explain that the error occurs sometimes when a cable is loose which will cause the pedals to short circuit and go to their default settings. She also says this sort of thing only happens when she “takes [herself] too seriously” during a show. She also bemoaned the incident because it stopped the song which was going to segue into “Doorstep,” which was apparently going to blow all the stoned concert goers’ minds, according to Garbus. I wasn’t smoking at the show, but that serendipitous occurrence was far more memorable than any seamless transition could have hoped for at a show that was already overflowing with amazing songs and expert live engineering to be unforgettable.
Other highlights from the show included typically bad-ass renditions of “Gangsta,” “Killa,” and “You Yes You” the jumping fit during “Bizness,” as well as solid opening sets from the jammy Delicate Steve and the angular experimentalists, Micachu and the Shapes.
We couldn’t find a clip of the “Real Live Flesh” incident (if you have it on your iPhone, please leave it in the comments), so we’ll just share a fan-shot clip of “Bizness” shot from the balcony at Terminal 5.
tUnE-yArDs — “Bizness”