Sofar Sounds New York City: Tribeca 5/20/16

Review and Photos by Parisa Mahdad

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Friday’s Sofar show was held in a Tribeca apartment. The building, once a department store in the mid 19th century, gave the night’s venue stunning acoustics with its high ceilings held by pillars over hardwood floors. There was space, which most of us haven’t felt in a while. Exotic trinkets and modern décor alike adorned otherwise minimalist shelves. An oversized red textured rug laid adjacent to a prominent piece of abstract art.

They even had pizza. And whiskey. And wine.

 

This Sofar show was curated by Hypnocraft, headed up by Rachael Pazdan who chose three very different musical acts to suit everyone’s tastes for the evening.

Mrs. Adam Schatz is the solo project of Adam Schatz who usually performs with his band, Landlady. Schatz describes his solo act's stage name as his wife’s name. He doesn’t have a wife, though.

He began his set standing and playing the saxophone. He used a looper to record and layer saxophone samples. He then stopped everything to take up a drum stick in each hand and bang on the rim of a floor tom in beat. He added vocals.

“Be my husband man I be your wife…”

His voice was perfect on Nina Simone.

Schatz’s set was stop and go. It was an art installation in real time. I was uncertain as to whether he was improvising the layering, the twisting of the knobs, and the switching between the looper and synth. The unpredictability of Schatz’s performance style adds to its excitement.  

The artist’s second song, “Solid Brass,” also reflects this unpredictability. Schatz’s lyrics go from “My voice is lower in the morning” to “Your legs are shorter in the evening.” The electric piano is distorted taking on a guitar guise. Time signatures change regularly, keys change, and piano motifs chop up and smooth out.

“Driving in California” is a tribute to the golden state feels that Schatz found while driving through California on tour with his band in a van. It has a gospel beginning, Schatz “oo”ing over organ inspired chords. The music drops out and Schatz beats his chest with his right hand. At one point, he comes out from behind the synth and plays a sax solo pacing across the floor without any additional music backing. To be accompanied by silence is a beautiful thing.

The guy is a natural performer, his set blending music, comedy, and movement based performance art.  Schatz has a knack for improvising between songs at which point he transforms into a natural comedian. At one point, he joked about his love of knives and his tendency to take at least one knife from every house show he plays. In no better time did one of the apartment hosts walk over to the stage to hand him his set of knives from the kitchen.  Schatz stayed in character, using a knife to nonchalantly accompany his movements and his pacings.

Schatz introduced his final song, “I Pledge Allegiance (To Your Body),” by stating, “This is my most patriotic song and my most sexually charged song.” It was also my favorite song of his set. The melody of the national anthem was craftily twisted and maneuvered and met with clever lyrics such as “I pledge allegiance to your soul. I pledge allegiance to your elbows, to your fingers and your toes. I pledge allegiance to your runny nose.”

Schatz’s voice shines in this song- a deep raspy blues quality that so effortlessly jumps into falsetto.  At one point in the song, Schatz stops completely, vocalizes drums, and then busts out into a killer piano solo. As he sings “Make me get down on one knee,” Schatz stops the music, gets down on one knee and twists his knobs into sound.

The best component of the song, however, was the crowd participation that ended the set. “High and dry on the fourth of July. J-U-L-Y, you ain’t got no alibi. Shootin firecrackers uppa my spine. You are the stars to my stripes…” to which he began dancing with a large knife.

J. Hoard’s set was church. He was joined by his co-writer and producer, Greg Seltzer. They met at a soul jam session and have been writing and performing together for 3 years. Though seemingly two very different characters, J. Hoard robed in a majestic purple ensemble and Seltzer coolly understated in his Stan Smiths and black pullover, the two have strong musical commonalities. Hoard studied jazz at Berklee College of Music and Seltzer studied jazz at the New School. The duo both have a deep appreciation for soul music.

Hoard is otherworldly.  It is no wonder that his music emanates divinity. His father was a pastor and a musician that played for the Ohio Players. His father stopped singing R&B to dedicate himself to gospel music. J. Hoard has managed to blend both of these styles into his own music.  J Hoard himself describes his music as acoustic soul. Though influences such as Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye are unmistakable, Seltzer also filled me in on Hoard’s love of Tina Turner.

His second song was a standard called “Come Sunday," popularly performed by Duke Ellington. It was bound to be soulful with lyrics such as “Lord, dear Lord above. God Almighty please look down and see my people through.” Hoard has perfect control of his voice, able to ascend in his range softly with simultaneous intensity.  He doesn’t need a mic,  which is great because he can’t help but express his music through broad strokes of his arms and dancer like pacings across the stage. This song was a prime example of J. Hoard’s talent: He has a voice with the flexibility of a saxophone, the bodily expression of a dancer, and the presence of a preacher.

The duo performed “Arctic,” which is off of their most recent EP entitled “Feel Good.” J. Hoard embraces his humanity. He introduced the song by unabashedly stating “I need a man!” The song does express more sensual lyrics such as “In the Arctic, let your love heat me up. In the darkness, let your moon be my trust.” Seltzer keeps a steady foundation to the song repeating a riff before slowing down at the bridge and letting Hoard’s voice keep the rhythm. The song highlights Hoard’s control of his voice and his dynamic R&B style. Hoard wraps a shaker around his foot to add rhythm to his set.  

“Miss Misery” rounded out Hoard’s set expressing the road to breaking away from hardship while cleverly alternating the gender roles of these emotions in the lyrics. “What is gender? Really what is it?” Hoard interjected as he introduced the song, transforming the venue into a socially conscious church.

J. Hoard was more than a musical performer, he was a channel for light and inspiration for the audience. Music was his vehicle of choice. His outro as he left his set consisted of a simple melody over words singing, “You deserve to smile. You deserve to lie for a while, ‘cause you have worked hard to feel good now.” Hoard and Seltzer most certainly made the night’s audience feel something more than good.

Tigue was the night’s final act, their set consisting of one “song.” It’s hard for me to write about twenty minutes of percussion, but this is what I can say: It’s fucking good. It’s something spiritual. Something sexual. Mesmerizing.

The three members, Matt Evans, Amy Garapic, and Carson Moody sat in a triangle-like formation with a drum set in the middle. The set began with Matt Evans on a shaker in his right hand and electric keys betwixt the fingers of his left. Evans laid down the foundation of the set with a steady shake and a long, sustained organ inspired chord. 

It was endurance. The band proved their physical and mental fortitude. The set moved in ebbs and flows of synchronicity whereby Garapic and Moody mirrored each other’s movements, while at other points, the two broke off into more varied rhythms using their additional accoutrements made of wood, metal, and drum. Likewise with the keyboard, the progression was either steady and slow changing or more varied in chord progression.

The three members met in undergrad at Ohio State and happened to reunite in graduate school in Rochester. They found each other once again, this time in Brooklyn, where they have been living and playing for the last three years.  

Evans seems to lead the pack, not only providing the only constant of shaker and keyboard but through his eyes- Garapic and Moody periodically looking to him for a nod signaling that something’s coming next.

Tigue brought the audience into a different realm. Their music is a meditation. The players themselves have a zen-like quality about them. Evans shows his transcendence, his eyes gazing upwards and a knowing smile coming over his face. He’s into it.  Garapic and Moody are so intensely immersed into the technicalities of the rhythm and the precision with which they coordinate between themselves. They stare intently at their drums or each other. They don’t mess around.

Tigue certainly left an impression on the audience. Their set ended dramatically leaving a stark silence of awe before the audience came back to Earth and erupted in much earned applause.

Whereas most Sofar shows end in a trickling out of the space, the hosts of the evening invited everyone to stay for a jam session and to indulge further in libations as we all eased on into the weekend.