“We’re Scary” S. Carey plays Off Broadway

S. Carey @ Off Broadway, April 4, 2011

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If you search you tube for videos of S. Carey shows, you understand why they get “ambient” slapped on their records alongside chamber folk and indie. Not because they layer droning behind their vague vocal tracks, but because there are a lot of people talking and laughing, glasses clinking, and general bar/venue noise in the background of their performances. Not so last night at Off Broadway. The lucky ones who showed up to see S. Carey (Sean Carey is only the drummer from Bon Iver, big whoop) were so captivated by the precise beauty of their music that it was twelve minutes into the set before anyone dared to make a noise that might break their spell. This was the opening number, “Move.”

S. Carey \”Move\’ Off Broadway, St. Louis

Who doesn’t love an upright bass? Jeremy Boettcher made us all vibrate. And never underestimate the panty-dropping power of a bass clarinet. Chris Thomson (CT) worked the woodwinds like a first-chair phenom. And drummer Zach Hanson was no shirk on the glockenspiel and the drums. “Move” bled directly into “We Fell” without a pause, no applause, like Glenda-the-White-Witch-Level magic.

During “In the Dirt,” I distinctly heard guitarist Nick Ball step on an effects switch. Two feet away, Kate McD’s camera shutter sounded like a fourth of July snappy pop. Sean Carey’s perfectly-controlled vocals haunted without ever fading into saccharine breathiness. When the song finally wrapped, we applauded, panting, enraptured, and Sean Carey looked out at us and said, “Does anyone know who won the basketball game?” Beat. Beat. Beat. “No,” we replied in unison, our mouths hanging open like why had he stopped making out with us to ask us such a ridiculous question?

Lyrically, S. Carey’s songs are the real-deal-Japanese-haiku spare, and the vocals are often a side element of an over-all neo-classical composition. But in their own right, the harmonies between Carey and Ball are exceptional and, nearing the end of “All We Grow,” the words had begun to transcend sense until Carey sang, “So when you come back/ we’ll have to make new love.” A huge grin spread across my face. That magnificent bastard seamlessly wedged four minutes of repeating two lines from Bjork’s “Unravel” into the end of his song. He apologized for the Bjork indulgence, but he didn’t look sorry.

The final song, “Leave” was a delightful, if ill-fated for merch sales, closer and I was somewhat surprised they bothered with an encore. Their cover of “Consequence” by the Notwists was far wordier and brainier than their own material, but it was definitely worth sticking around.

In short, shadow, schmadow. Bon Iver is cool; they’ll always hold a special place in my mixtapes. And maybe Justin Vernon’s perfectly happy out partying with Kanye, but Sean Carey’s where the real music is. Grab their album All We Grow from Jagjaguwar’s website. Or come over to my house, I bought the LP.

Click through for the Riverfront Times review of the show, and here for Kate McD’s pictures for KDHX.

S. Carey
Off Broadway, St. Louis
April 4, 2011

1. Move
2. We Fell
3. In the Dirt
4. Mothers
5. Action
6. All We Grow (+ Unravel, Bjork)
7. In the Stream
8. Leave

Consequence (cover, The Notwists)

I also bought opener Dots Not Feathers‘ CD A Thousand Novels. Keep your eye on these kids, St. Louis. They’re working on a new EP, hatched at the California Pizza Kitchen, so you know it’s real.


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