A blown generator turned the free concert series River Rocks at Pier 54 (QRO venue review) into more of an adventure than anyone had intended. The electrical snafu sunk opener Dinosaur Feathers’ set, but turned into an unexpected boon for headliner Antlers whose moody mewing only improved as the hour grew late under an eerily moonlit summer night.
Rewind to earlier in the day when the sun was still shining and the perpetually high-spirited lads from Dinosaur Feathers still had hopes for finishing the set. Everything was in its proper place: the salt in the air, the seagulls in the breeze, the 24-oz Twisted Teas in hand. Then about two-and-a-half songs into the set everything went dead. The three members of Dinosaur Feathers looked as confused as the crowd, and information was at a premium. Hard to complain about a free show, though. The vibe stayed pleasant as stage crew scurried around the periphery of the event trying to jury-rig a solution. The mini yellow generator that was rolled down the right flank of the pier provided just enough juice to power the microphones in order to announce that the ‘real’ generator was on its way. Not quickly enough, apparently, as Dinosaur Feathers was coaxed into finishing out their set without working monitors or drum machine.
Night fell and The Antlers took the stage. A cool breeze rolled off the Hudson as the three members of The Antlers debuted a couple of new song in a Hospice-heavy set. At least one writer at QRO tapped the album for the best of 2009 (QRO Top Albums of 2009 – Contributor’s Lists), so a Hospice-heavy set is nothing to sniff at. Though you might wonder how the band will follow up and expand beyond such a singular concept album (the trials, tribulation, and transcendence of a cancer victim). The group has certainly grown ‘horizontally’, adding a sax player and trumpeter for the RiverRocks show to the regular guitar/keyboard/drums ensemble. The extra brass mojo lent a nice authentic glow to The Antlers’ music, which, if it’s vulnerable to any major criticism, can sometimes sound thin and synthetic.
Lead vocalist Peter Silberman, who successfully combines the vocal affectations of an oversexed drag queen and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, looked in his element. Profuse expressions of sentiment between the stage and crowd turned the night into a veritable love-fest. And what better spot to debut new material than in front of an appreciative hometown audience? A couple of new songs made their way into the set, and it sounded as if the Antlers are working their way out of the one-note pathos of Hospice towards more upbeat horizons of weirdness. A good sign for the future. There is only so long a band can trade on such a tightly choreographed cancer narrative before listeners demand a second act. To all Antlers fans: it’s on its way.