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Review: Man Man and The Apples in stereo

Posted by Charlee Redman on 04/28 at 12:08 PM

Sometimes it takes a few songs for a performance to truly start, to move past the preliminaries and engage an audience. Maybe it was the dismal Monday evening weather or the mountainous pre-finals week workload weighing on our minds. But the rain didn’t hamper SOMA‘s final concert of the year in Heritage Hall, after the show began to warm up.

The British Phil, played first. The set was surprisingly different from the band’s material on Myspace, sounding much more like British Phil than sweetened acoustic pop. It seems that the Zak Sobel Band is still in the process of figuring out its identity and direction, but it’s a promising start.

Bars are a fairly standard locale for the Kalob Griffin Band, and much of their set showed it. The first few songs had a levity not quite appropriate for the early evening Heritage Hall performance, but the band built up to a hard edge after the first twangy country-blues bar tunes. With “Ricky Tick Tack” the heavy bass and rock guitar assumed a new intensity. The band’s music became more poignant and focused and the guitar solos tightened up into biting treks rising through scales. Kalob Griffin’s distinctive voice, at once plaintive and richly melodic, helped to set the band apart.
You can catch the KGB at Café 210 West on Thursday night with Pat McGee and Bishop Clay.

After a long hiatus of sound-checking, Man Man needed some time to work themselves into their groove as well. Although their experimental music was somewhat abrasive at the start of the set, by the third song they’d found their niche. And what a strange place that is.

Decked out in war paint, colored glasses, chef hats, and a bright turquoise sequin shirt in frontman Honus Honus’ case, Man Man swept through the hall like a force of nature. Their layered, indistinguishable vocals and various sound effects piled on urgent percussion and rollicking keys filled the space with an immediacy and presence almost tangible, heavier than the humidity outside. With the helter-skelter xylophone of “The Ballad of Butter Beans” (from the 2008 album Rabbit Habits), the set began to pick up into a whirlwind of sound and energy. Man Man’s strength lies in their music’s ability to thoroughly capture the ear - if you can stick through the occasional bursts of noise and avant-garde experimentation, you’ll be wrapped up in an intense world of mashed genres and dynamic song structures. Man Man’s songs are often unpredictable, changing tempo and style abruptly to drop from frantic rushing beats into slow cabaret piano interludes. There’s nothing else quite like it.

The final act of the night, The Apples in stereo, animated the crowd with their buoyant electro-pop dance tunes. Vocalist and guitarist Rob Schneider lead the band through a mix of old and new material, playing several selections from the band’s most recent album Travellers in Space and Time, like the catchy “Energy.” Speaking about the future, aliens, and the fluidity of time, Schneider brought enthusiasm and verve to his high, bright vocals. The Apples in stereo have a fun psychedelic sound, light and slightly spacey. Despite the late hour (for a Monday) and ever-diminishing crowd, the band played a solid and enjoyable set.

The concert, which SOMA president Danny Michelson re-organized at the last minute after Los Campesinos! and Cymbals Eat Guitars cancelled, unfolded smoothly. While Man Man and The Apples in stereo’s presence was unforeseen, the new line-up drew a fair-sized audience. Thanks to SOMA’s dedication to bringing artists to State College, even volcanoes couldn’t stop the music.

Check out photos from the concert in the slideshow below! (or click here)

{name} Author: Charlee Redman
Bio: Charlee Redman is currently a sophomore studying English and French at Penn State. She enjoys reading, writing, listening to music, making ambient noise with the local band The Roaring Kittens, walking, and drinking lots of coffee. Although she likes many styles of music, some of her favorites are folk, indie, classical, and electronic. Her favorite bands at the moment are The National, Iron & Wine, Of Montreal, and Radiohead.

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