Gauntlet Hair at The Bishop 11/28/11
As anyone who has been to the Bishop can understand, the 8:30 PM starting time for the Gauntlet Hair show became much later on this rainy Monday night. The show opened up with Baby and Hide, the pseudonym of musician Jeremy Keller, who, along with two portable keyboards and a loop pedal, created an atmospheric yet minimal mix of intelligent lyrics and droning ambience. The audience was sparse and spread across the floor at this point as even with the late starting time, people were only beginning to trickle in. This seemed to be a non-issue to Keller however, who immediately after hitting the first note on his keyboard became lost within his own music. Despite his ability to convey his emotions as openly as one would expect to find reading his personal diary, his musical backing would sometimes become monotonous, drawing the crowd to become distracted or worse, bored. Despite that, there were plenty of elements which really drew the audience in, as he constructed loops of electric pianos and organs under a settling voice, and he managed to set a good groundwork for the artists to come.
Matt Mehlan of Skeletons was the next to take the stage. Accompanied only by an acoustic guitar that he didn’t mind abusing, he began his set with a predictably assembled singer-songwriter sound. That mirage was dissolved pretty quickly, however, as his well-constructed guitar and vocal parts took a dive into an experimental realm, with loops building on top of each other and crisp acoustic sounds becoming distorted and mangled. Between songs, Mehlan bridged with some interesting yet bizarre statements, including an anecdote about the Freudian theory of anal retentiveness, which just added to the peculiar nature of the set. Though he mentioned at the beginning that he was nervous, very little of that showed through in his performance that closed off with a screaming chant over a loud and bustling acoustic guitar loop with multiple indistinguishable layers. Though containing many instances of highly inspired songwriting, much of the performance seemed to be just a little over the top, as if even he himself was having trouble containing it.
Up next was Chandelier Ballroom, a local Bloomington group. After further and further steps towards experimentation taken by the opening bands, Chandelier Ballroom seemed to be a jump backwards, moving to a still atmospheric yet slightly predictable sound. The 4-piece band draws from a wide amount of influenced, taking aspects of anything from surf-rock to psychedelic, yet arranged and presented them in an innocuous manner. The musicianship in the band was impressive, with many members switching instruments and vocal duties between songs. They were energetic and spirited in front of what seemed to be a familiar crowd, and they really helped bring life back into the audience.
The headlining act, Gauntlet Hair, was the last to go on, but very much worth the wait. One might think that their blend of club music influenced drumbeats and bass lines with almost ambient guitar and vocal parts would create a clashing sound, yet that blend manages to really work out for them in an intriguing and captivating way. As the first night of their new tour, there were bound to be some technical issues, but even those were handled great, giving the band a chance to interact with the audience in an awkward (sometimes shushing the audience while they sat in silence waiting on someone) yet endearing way. Their noise-pop mix seemed to be well-received by the audience, and by the end everyone was moving along to the music. Compared to some of the openers, their set seemed a bit short, but that may have been due to the fact that I had become so engrossed in it, that I didn’t even notice the time passing.
By: Jeff Ubelhor
Photos by: Meredith Dover
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