Photos by Zak Neumann
If you’re going to make an album like Hospice, you have to deal with the consequences.
The Antlers debut held a place in my top five records of last year, and for good reason: it’s one of those increasingly rare albums, you know, the kind that must be absorbed in full, a heartbreaking and often disorienting meditation on life, death, love, dependence…all themes epic. It had some clear standouts (“Bear,” “Two”), but I rarely skipped to find them — the most rewarding listen was just traveling with its protagonist (assumedly Antlers songwriter Peter Silberman) through a metaphorical stint as a hospice worker, tending to folks in various states of decay.
Think you’d find sing-alongs? Certainly not. (The cheeriest-sounding song on the album, “Bear,” is a wrenching abortion narrative). But the all-ages crowd at The Blue Moose Taphouse last night seemed to want anthems or at least were too antsy to pick the melodies out of the atmospheric, emotional indie rock that Silberman crafts. The Antlers — now a three piece, though Silberman recorded Hospice solo — played their album pretty much linearly which, considering its build, they pretty much had to do. They skipped “Prologue” and some of the less-critical noise pieces, but otherwise I knew what was coming.
The only true difference was Silberman’s voice, which is by all accounts a beautiful, emotive thing that’s often understated for effect on the album. Live, its full volume and range really helped draw people in. The supporting cast added the surround-sound, sure, but I was too distracted by the synth player’s insistence that the stage was too dark (“vintage synths don’t come with lights”) to focus on his musicianship. Likewise the drummer may or may not have been extraordinary. He didn’t really need to be in order to read faithfully from Silberman’s script.
Sometimes, as in set-closer “Wake”, The Antlers’ emotional payoff certainly translated. However, the performance too often failed to transcend and captivate the invasive, talkative crowd.
I’m starting to sound old, but the blame shouldn’t fall squarely on The Antlers — I think they would be best seen in a church, or even somewhere more reverent like The Mill, and while I still have high hopes for The Blue Moose and their massive space and diverse draw, perhaps Antlers weren’t the right fit. Far too many loud-bros, far too many over-eager underage girls. This was a show for the indie “too cool for school” crowd if I’ve ever seen one — where were the frowny folks whose only form of dancing is a slight head nod?
Openers Phantogram (soon to be touring with The XX, follow @Phantogram for updates) were solid, danceable post-Reznor electropop that perhaps served to prime the audience for a more dynamic, accelerated experience. But I didn’t come to get rocked. I came to cry a little. Guess I’ll have to save that for a lonesome night with the headphones.
Photos by Zak Neumann