This South By Southwest, I decided to keep a little notebook full of things I noticed during shows so that I could later relate them to you better than if I had been relying on my memory alone. It’s helped me out of a few tight spots — I forgot what Mariah Carey song Fol Chen covered (“Emotion”), I forgot the story about Anni Rossi’s set list (she wrote it on a recently received speeding ticket) and I wouldn’t have been able to remember Echo and the Bunnymen’s setlist order. What I won’t forget, however, is even one detail about Grizzly Bear’s performance at the Cedar St. Courtyard on the Friday of South By Southwest.
Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest has lead the charge in making spring 2009 the best musical moment in quite a while. It’s a revitalizing album that hits in every way its predecessor Yellow House did… and then hits even more. So to hear the best pieces culled from it and Grizzly Bear’s other releases and then performed live is already head-and-shoulders above what most bands could do on their best day. But the Filter/Blackberry party was beyond even their church show two days before.
Arguably the most incredible thing about Grizzly Bear’s performance on Friday is that it almost didn’t happen. Well, at least it almost didn’t happen quite the same. About an hour before Grizzly Bear were to take the stage, their drummer Chris Bear was still nowhere to be seen. Apparently he’d had a bit to drink the night before and was still feeling the effects at 9pm. The band were slightly worried, as Bear’s dynamics are key to the band’s sound, but confident that it would all pan out in the end. With just enough time to spare, Bear appeared and loaded in his drums. While the rest of the band plugged in effects pedals, Bear sat calmly to the side and ate crackers. It must’ve worked because he was on point the entire show and seemed fine throughout.
Chris Bear’s rally notwithstanding, the golden moment of the show belonged to a pairing that I never thought would happen live. Or at least not while I was there to witness it. In a union so perfect that it could only happen at SXSW, Beach House’s Victoria Legrand came out to sing backing vocals on Veckatimest‘s first single, “Two Week.” She supplied it on the record and it sounded just as fantastic live. Victoria was adorable and a great compliment to Ed Droste’s beautiful vocals. It was an appreciated treat for the audience that was likely even more enjoyable for Victoria and the guys of Grizzly Bear. It was just beautiful.
The rest of their set was as fantastic as I’ve ever seen them play. The new material, be it the leading percussion section of “Cheerleader” or the vocal display in “Ready, Able,” had a strength and weight behind it that cements my belief that Grizzly Bear has the talent and passion to become one of the most important bands in modern music. They’re already halfway there by writing some of the most important music, now they just need to be given enough time for the rest of the world to realize it. But if they keep releasing albums like Veckatimest and playing shows like this, that’s exactly what they’ll spend most of their career doing: waiting for everyone else to catch up.
More photos after the break.