Sunday, July 29, 2012
Concert review: Second-annual Gorilla vs. Bear Festival at Granada Theater trumped last year’s show
Chromatics should have been the headliner.
DALLAS The second annual Gorilla vs Bear festival at the Granada Theater was not only bigger than last year’s kickoff; it was significantly better. Unlike last year, the local-yet-worldwide music blog booked national acts that already had a substantial following, giving the event a notable identity and crowd. A.Dd+ and DJ Sober were the only local acts to fit the bill, with other groups hailing from Portland or New York. GvsB creator Chris Cantalini chose a hodgepodge of genres, which made for a satisfying and widespread mix of indie rock and hip-hop.
Dallas’ own DJ Sober opened the evening with a tranquil mash up of hip-hop and dance numbers. Sober successfully DJ’ed last year’s festival, so we applauded his return.
A.Dd+, who is currently touring with DJ Sober, is the vivacious hip-hop duo that has opened for Paul Wall, Wu-Tang, Erykah Badu, and Devin the Dude. Paris Pershun and Slim Gravy’s fast flows sat snuggly with Sober’s hard-hitting beats, giving the mainly hipster crowd a satisfactory taste of today’s rap standards. Picnictyme, the groups’ producer and a member of Erykah Badu’s Cannabinoids, stepped out for a slower track that was reminiscent of Pharrell Williams’ higher vocals and smooth approach. Shortly after, Sober blew the roof off with a remix of Major Lazer’s “Pon de Floor” accompanied by Slim Gravy’s shuffling footwork and an echoing roar from the audience.
With cascading hair and a girl-next-door appearance, Laurel Halo stepped behind her monolithic soundboard to a welcoming crowd. The Brooklyn native created ambient mixes of organic sounds and pedals that continuously washed over the audience. Every so often she would add her gloomy vocals to the mix, which failed to dissect the incessantly calming melodies. The disconnected crowd began to talk over her quieter numbers; this mainly instrumental musicality wasn’t cutting it.
Taken By Trees, Sweden’s own indie folk band, stole back the room’s attention with their odd collage of reggae, Western, and Hawaiian influences. Front woman Victoria Bergsman’s pillowed chords played well off their prominent steel guitar; their lackadaisical style honed in on Rilo Kiley’s eclectic mix of folk and pop on their earlier records. Bergman maintained an odd expression of discomfort throughout the set, probably caused by the repeated sound issues with her microphone, which contradicted the swaying effect of their exotic style. Bergmans’ hypnotic tone mesmerized the audience in “Dreams,” one of their newest singles, and helped overcome the band’s impersonal stage presence.
Yet another New York group, Twin Sister, took the stage shortly after. This highly anticipated '80s dream pop band knew just which songs to sing to get the entire room dancing. Lead singer Andrea Estella’s unkempt purple hair and extremely short cutoff shorts got the crowd talking, but it was her scaling soprano-to-alto vocals that kept the attention. The well-known single, “Meet the Frownies” -- featuring a blend of crest-fallen vocals and sharp pedals -- was a favorite of the night (make sure to catch the sample in Kendrick Lamar’s “The Recipe” featuring Dr. Dre). Estella’s demeanor brought their already-exciting tunes to life. She moved to each song in a different way and added character that helped flesh out their slightly psychedelic style.
The sexy electronic group Chromatics came up next to a screaming crowd, and there was no mistaking the fact that they should’ve been the headliner. Their foolproof performance and coolness seeped through the room, and affirmed why they were featured on the Drive soundtrack -- one of the most talked-about soundtracks of 2011. With a dark sultriness and sensual beats, the Oregon group made each song their own, including their hit cover of Neil Young’s “Into the Black.” Producer and keyboardist Johnny Jewel’s accompanying keys added a sharp contrast to lead singer’s Ruth Radelet’s flatter vocals, bringing the edge fans have come to love.
Johnny Jewel’s other gig, Glass Candy, closed out the night with their erratic electro rock. Vocalist Ida No shrieked throughout many of the songs, which hurt our ears more than it should have. The strong backbone of Jewel’s melodies wasn’t enough to overcome the lack of exciting vocals, making for a lackluster close to the heart-pumping night. The giant multi-colored balloons cascading and bouncing over the audience helped generate more excitement, giving fans an opportunity to swat them across the room. No’s incessant swirling and stomping encouraged the crowd to continue dancing until the end, which somehow helped make the set worth staying for.
This second-annual event matched up to the hipster buzz it generated, and the concert will hopefully promise more dates in the coming years. Gorilla vs Bear’s taste in music can sometimes be so erratic that it’s hard to follow, but the hodgepodge of acts still sent fans home with a smile.