Thursday’s show was the second time in the past year I’d seen Starlight Mints, and if there’s one thing I learned, it’s this: Starlight Mints make people dance. In weird, inspired ways. In that-person-has-no-rhythm sort of ways. We’re talking Elaine Dance material, with no regard to self-consciousness.
I suppose it stands to reason, all this dancing/contorting, given Starlight Mints’ big, even-tempoed numbers. Even the opener, the instrumental Rhino Stomp, has a name that seems to aptly describe the sound, like a menacing march of drums. The whole procession is complemented by visual mayhem: two standing light sticks on either side of the stage that glow and flash intermittently and a running projection show that mostly streams abstract images of lines and shapes, kind of like the album art on Drowaton. The entire stage set-up looks elaborate: keyboards, laptops, projector, megaphones, etc. In the live setting, you can really see how much the group relies on keyboard- and MIDI-produced sounds for horns and orchestral-type instruments.
It’s indicative of the band’s somewhat oddball leanings. But I appreciate that singer/guitarist Allan Vest keeps the weirdness somewhat reined in, making the music approachable and totally likable. A little too much quirkiness can be exhausting and off-putting. Starlight Mints make it work to their advantage.
[mp3] Starlight Mints | Inside of Me
I have a minor confession to make: I’ve been included on Bishop Allen’s monthly e-mails to bloggers but never had posted on the New York quartet. If you haven’t kept up, Bishop Allen is nearing the end of its EP-a-month project, in which the group is releasing 12 EPs this year and titling them by the month of their releases. My gut reaction was to write it off as a gimmick, albeit a damn creative one. Twelve EPs at $5 per; you do the math. My guess is, though, the publicity is worth far more. (For starters, you might find a post or 20 over at You Ain’t No Picasso.)
For all my cynicism (justified or not), Bishop Allen won me over on Thursday. (And, for the record, I purchased the July EP afterward.) A friend commented afterward that Bishop Allen stole the show. I don’t know if I’d agree totally, but the group certainly held sway, and I caught a few people in the crowd singing along, which suggests the buzz is out there â€“ even in the desert.
Because of a narrow stage front to back, the group lined up nearly in a single-file line left to right. It was a very egalitarian arrangement â€“ drummer in the front! â€“ and added a different visual aesthetic. (The group’s singer, Justin Rice, told me afterward the set-up was out of necessity, but the guys all seemed to like it, which could lead to future experiments with it.) It certainly didn’t hurt. The band’s chemistry was readily apparent â€“ lots of knowing nods and glances to each other as they played, all gestures that seemed to say they were locked in.
More important for me is I finally have some concrete notion of who/what Bishop Allen is. If you read enough blogs and see a band’s name out there so much, you tend to regard it as just some abstract idea or notion. A live show, especially one as good as this, gives me tangible evidence that this band is as talented as everyone said. And damn if closing with Things Are What You Make of Them is about the wisest move the group can make. That song will stick with you; hell, it will stick to you … oh, dear: I’m drinking the Bishop Allen Kool-Aid.