Arts concert review

All rock ‘n’ roll, all the time

And how music takes you home again

Cafe 939
April 20

We drove with the windows down. Sticking our hands out of the car, we would feel the resistance of the air against our palms. The air tasted of salt as we passed street after street until finally we could see where the sea and the sky met. It was a lazy afternoon, and the sun painted everything a tinge of orange. Guitar chords filled the car with its beautiful wailing. With nothing to do, we sat there and let the music carry us towards the beach long before the car had ever reached it.

But I woke up from my daydream. I’m standing in a crowded room with people who I’ve never met and who I’ll never meet. I look at BANNERS, strumming his guitar so passionately that you can’t help but get lost in the music. His concert had that kind of effect on me.

On April 20, BANNERS played at Cafe 939 on Boylston Street. Opening the night for his band was the Canadian indie group, Ellevator. Headed by Nabi Sue Berche, the lead singer, the group performed a few songs to get us ready for the headliner. There is a certain kind of folk aspect to their music, although it can be distinguished as indie. Berche sang a few songs for us including: “Saint Cecilia,” “Better,” and “Scars.”

Berche herself was deeply immersed in her music. She sang so sweetly that it felt as though she wasn’t performing for anyone at all. It was a state of being that instantly brought up vocalists such as Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald. Here was a performer who infused all her pain into beauty. “It’s easy to write sad songs,” she mused. “It’s good though! It means you’re living all your happiness in the moment!”

The combination of delicious guitar licks and droning synthesizers really crafted an experience that conjured a folksy mood in the room. After a while, it did get a little dull as the setlist fell into the trap of maintaining the relative tone of the previous songs. However, Ellevator performed “New Survival,” a song which resounded with inspiration. Backed up with maracas and a beat that complemented Berche’s down-to-earth voice, it was a perfect end for them.

There was about a 30 minute break to allow the crew to set up BANNERS. String lights were hung. Strobe lights were positioned, facing the audience. We stood around anxiously. Suddenly, the room lights dimmed; the room glowed violet. BANNERS walked on to the sound of immense cheering.

His part of the show was an audio-visual masterpiece. The strobe lights that were placed on stage would be used to highlight his songs. Thumping as though they were one heart, the lights flashed on and off intermittently. Compared to Ellevators, BANNERS spared no time getting to the rock ’n’ roll. With songs like “Shine a Light,” he brought the room closer together by having all the musicians join him as accompaniment. On the other hand, he willed us to life with more exciting songs such as “Let’s Start a Riot,” which was speckled with intense guitar playing and amazing synthesized sounds. He was charismatic, the picture of joie de vivre if ever there was one. Being so close to the front, I could see all the energy that the lead singer distilled into the stage. I was more than happy to simply be in the same room with this man.

I wasn’t the only one to believe this. BANNERS would thank us after every song, and it was a sweet way to bring him closer to us.  He also lent his hat to two young girls sitting in the front, “for safe-keeping,” he grinned. I was taken aback by his kindness, which made his music even more profound. His lyrics and the music blended together so well that I was once again taken away by the music. I closed my eyes.

And there I was riding shotgun. My fingers ran through the air outside; meanwhile, I tasted the faint presence of salt in the wind. I felt close to the sea, knowing that I was miles away from any sort of water, but that didn’t matter. I was home again.