Grizzly Bear

The other night, at the Miami Beach Fillmore Auditorium, the New York City-based indie rock band Grizzly Bear finally made it to Miami. The five-piece band brought its captivating, restless, yet refined, rock sound to an eager audience of young and more stately hipsters alike. Singer, multi-instrumentalist and founder Ed Droste led the band center stage but mostly in the shadows against a wall of alternately glowing jellyfish. “I really hope we don’t wait as long to come back again,” Droste said to the warm audience. The enthusiasm from the crowd sounded much grander than the half-at-capacity venue, which holds 1600 max. Here’s one of several moments where Droste expressed his gratitude for to the welcome Miami gave the band:

Droste switched between Omnichord and electric guitar as his preferred instrument. Since he began the project in his bedroom as a solo artist, Grizzly Bear has become a democratic affair and guitarist Daniel Rossen shared as much in lead vocals as the band’s founder. Also singing, bassist Chris Taylor, who occasionally put down the bass to play clarinet, tenor sax or flute. Rounding out the crew was Chris Bear on drums and keyboardist Aaron Arntz, who hid behind a wall of various synthesizers almost as tall as he.

It made for an intriguing mix of instruments, explored not for gimmick but to serve these unassuming yet brilliant songs. “A Simple Answer” had Rossen juggling keyboard and guitar work. Comments on the complexity of these songs overheard in the crowd included Pink Floyd-esque. Yet, any left turns in the music never broke a well-grounded groove. There was something comforting about watching these young musicians gel over real instruments.

Most dynamic throughout the night were the members’ varied voices, from solo to harmonic. Droste provided more earthy if still breathy vocals while Rossen and Taylor’s voices brought a more angelic element to the mix with their own crystalline tenors and falsettos. “Gun-Shy” offers a nice demonstration of Droste and Rossen trading off on vocals. My battery on the camera died before the song came to its end:

There was only one occasion where the band fell out of sync. Rossen seemed to jump ahead on the keyboard riff of “Two Weeks” on a couple of occasions, but otherwise the set went perfectly. Droste seemed chatty, asking how the Heat game was going before the band quietly sequed into “Shift,” a surprise from the moody but gorgeous debut album Horn of Plenty. Here’s the moment caught on video I uploaded to YouTube and the full song:

That marked a quiet moment in the set, but “What’s Wrong” opened with Taylor on tenor sax, and the song had a new-found, overall booming quality missing from the record. The band closed with a downright majestic “Sun In Your Eyes,” which Droste set up as the last song of the night to a chorus of “Awe!” from the audience. Rossen tried to soften the blow by noting, “It’s kind of long and plodding and boring.” Of course, it was anything but. The band patiently played with the dynamic of the song, cooing their beautiful lyrics before the incandescent crescendos of the instruments.

Even with songs turned boisterous, the reaction from the audience was always jubilant. The band only offered one song for the encore, an acoustic version of “All We Ask.” When Droste sang “Wasting time with you some,” someone in the crowd yelled back, “Noooo!” Clearly there have been people in this city longing for a Grizzly Bear appearance. Droste knew it. When the band came on at around 9:45 p.m. his first words were, “Miami! I don’t know what took us so long to get here,” after all.

The opening act, Majical Cloudz, seemed to warm up the crowd nicely, though they felt a bit too minimalist and overly literal in the lyric department to amuse on a deeper level, unlike the headline act. A duo composed of vocalist Devon Welsh and musician Matthew Otto, Welsh also seemed chatty, concerned about the houselights and how intimidating the large room felt. “We’re tiny-room people so big rooms kinda freak us out. These candelabras and stuff remind me of the Titanic.” Their shtick was spare and confessional. These were sparse songs with Otto playing simple repetitive notes and creating an atmospheric drone with his electronic equipment. Fittingly, Otto sang lyrics as literal as “Listen to this song/This is how I feel…”


The music was so spare it gave little to the audience members to feed off. All they could do was stand there. These songs were so spare that they left no room in the music to even sway to. But it’s not like Welsh was not aware of this. Before the band’s last song, he even said, “OK, we’re gonna end by— for a change— playing a slow, sad song .” A Grizzly Bear audience should be expected to have patience, and these fans proved themselves as such, giving Majical Cloudz warm applause between attentive listens. Droste even complimented the crowd on its behavior during the opening band’s set, who he clearly has affection for … all the more reason for GB to pay Miami back with a return visit.

Set List

Speak in Rounds
Sleeping Ute
Yet Again
A Simple Answer
Ready, Able
While You Wait for the Others
What’s Wrong
Two Weeks
Half Gate
Sun in Your Eyes


All We Ask (acoustic)

The tour continues in the U.S. through August. Visit Grizzly Bear’s website for all the tour dates.

Finally some more images from the night. All photos were taken by Ana Morgenstern. We were nestled in the balcony with drink service:


Daniel Rossen

Ed Droste

Chris Taylor

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Anyone who follows Independent Ethos knows an artist’s perceived popularity matters little to this blog. What matters is the work produced, though sometimes the circumstances under which that work is produced matters. Take Fiona Apple’s current tour. When it stopped into Miami Beach over the weekend, something felt … flat. I had last seen her perform in Washington D.C., during the heat wave of ’06 in an outdoor venue. Though sweat poured off her, she offered boundless energy (read a review by “DCist”). She also seemed happy, noting last time she was at that venue was in the womb of her mother, as her father performed in a play there.

But, my how news coverage of an arrest for hashish possession can change things. Sure, it must have been a bummer for her, but probably magnifying the clouds over the tour where several things that unfolded in the mass media afterward. First her mugshot in prison stripes was circulated by the higher-than-though gossip media machine. Later, she lashed out against the arresting cops on stage. The audience video went viral. Then, the arresting police department’s spokesperson had the tacky idea to comment publicly telling her to “Shut up and sing” and “I’m more famous than you are.” Adding more insult was one famous and longtime unethical blogger’s idea to analyze her appearance on this current tour.

In response to it all, Apple most recently felt inclined to preempt her second Florida show this past Monday night by sitting down to offer a diatribe of her experiences in this losing battle with the larger voices of the conglomerate monster of the Internet. Watch the unedited near 9-minute thing here:

What a shame that a few people abusing their big metaphoric bullhorns have affected Apple’s performance quality. If she feels inclined to start a show with a speech like the one above, it’s ignorant to think it is not affecting her. The show is a stripped down affair with minimal theatrics, which is all the more reason to skip the personal distractions and focus on the marvel that is Apple’s music. Her new album, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, was a welcome return after seven years of recording studio silence. The vinyl record was made for such a work. Her voice is pure and raw, and the recording captured all the wonderment of beating the heck out of a piano. From the moment her fingertips touch the keys to the reverb of the strings, the entire beast of the instrument is on fine display.

But the weight of all these superficial concerns of image, fighting for hits on pop culture blogs and Apple’s silly idea to take heed to what the bullies of the Internet have to say dampened the show in Miami Beach. It felt brief, especially after she sprung off stage and did not return for an encore. The house lights went up soon after she bounded off, so this was probably planned. Still little, if anyone cared, as all the cheering stopped soon after the lights went out and people shuffled out with little a care. It was a lackluster performance, as she went through the motions. Here’s one subdued moment:

As this latent post reveals, I almost did not even bother writing about the show, I felt so underwhelmed. I was the guy nodding off a couple of times during the set. I was able to stay awake enough to capture some clips, but my wife captured this last one:

Though the first minute of the song is missing, it offers an interesting moment on stage for the singer. She and the band extend the pauses in the song, creating a playful tension as Apple waits for cues from her drummer. Though she’s laughing at the thrill of anticipation, the moment she sings, her voice carries an impressive weight. Apple is still an honest, potent musician and God bless her for it. She will probably only get better as the superficial media gets bored and stops covering her silly stumbles, and she starts to ignore the coverage, so she can focus on her fantastic music.

I’d be dreaming to think this type of high school-level-type news coverage of art will ever stop. But, by coming to this blog, you support intelligent coverage of music and film that sticks to the art and keeps irrelevant personal coverage out of the mix. We can all learn from this and be better.

Her tour continues at these following dates:

10/05 – Louisville, KY @ Palace Theatre
10/06 – Cincinnati, OH @ Aronoff Center
10/07 – Columbus, OH @ Palace Theatre
10/09 – Buffalo, NY @ Kleinhans Music Hall
10/11 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE
10/12 – Montclair, NJ @ Wellmont Theatre
10/16 – New York, NY @ Terminal 5
10/17 – New York, NY @ Terminal 5
10/21 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2012 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

This year, amazing live shows for this writer in South Florida have been sporadic at best (discounting the almost holy experience of watching a band re-create Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway live with near time machine precision). But a pair of stand outs included a couple of sublime affairs by today’s most reputable independent artists: Radiohead and Bon Iver. As it turns out “Austin City Limits” will kick off its 38th season on PBS with these two bands, beginning Oct. 6. See the full announcement by jumping through the logo below:

These two bands will certainly offer for great, interesting television as far as live bands go. Their music is both complex and subtle, and the amount of musicians to reproduce their tunes live should offer for an exciting sight as well as sound.

I have already written breathlessly enough about Radiohead live on this blog. The first time I saw them live was as opening act to Belly in the early 90s, and the memory has stayed firm. There is also, of course, my rushed and messy but passionate Radiohead live review from earlier this year, which I have allowed to stand as testament to the horrors of the rush to get news out to the Internet, as much as I would like to revise and re-write it. This one of the best songs I caught live, “Separator,” off the new album:

Radiohead kicked off the US leg of its world-wide tour in Miami supporting the King of Limbs, it’s highly undervalued new album (It’s too short, it’s too mellow, protested many). The band cherry-picked some choice songs from its catalog for a mood befitting the delicate beauty of their new album. They played the best show I ever saw in the monstrosity of the AmericanAirlines Arena that night (see above, entrancing 6-minute song). The post went viral (by this blog’s standards) due to the fact that I was one of the first few who recorded the new song “Identikit” live and “Rolling Stone” featured the video on its website. Here’s that video featuring that song, which is sure to have evolved in its form since its debut live:

More recently I caught Bon Iver at the lovely, intimate Fillmore Miami Beach/Jackie Gleason Theater. I never wrote a review here, as the next morning saw me rushing out of the city to catch an early flight. I regret that.

By the time they arrived in Miami Beach, Bon Iver was long and deep into its tour for its brilliant 2011 self-titled album. There live shows had become old news on the Internet, as had its album. However, they still enthralled this mostly virginal Bon Iver-live crowd (It was the first time the band visited the area). Man, could this band perform. Though the music is subtle and mostly tranquil, it also has a majesty and grandiosity unmatched by many other bands. It takes nine guys on stage to re-create the music with justice to the studio recordings, and each one of these musicians are always doing something interesting to watch. Throw in an ingenious screen that looks like a giant cobweb hanging off the ceiling and project some images as a kaleidoscope of lights shift and shimmer over the stage, and the show becomes quite a dynamic experience.

I only bothered to record one video (my first in HD!) that night because I was too mesmerized by the rest of the show. It was the last song of the night, “For Emma:”

But click on over to the “Austin City Limits” website. They have already put up two videos featuring two songs from the Radiohead set that are not hard to find.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2012 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)