Baths at the Bluebird
Around 8 p.m. on a breezy Saturday night, Will Wiesenfeld — better known as electronic music act Baths — stands just inside the open doors of the Bluebird Theater. Greeting fans and friends alike as they stroll through the front door, Wiesenfeld mans the merchandise counter, swiping credit cards on his iPhone (yeah, there’s an App for that) and doling out signatures on stickers, t-shirts and cds. “I’m kicking myself,” he says with a massive smile, “I’ve only got Cerulean for sale, I’m sorry!” A few teenagers, giddy to have received a fist bump from Baths, wander away from the mercy desk towards the main hall of the venue. As I approach the counter, Wiesenfeld is taken aback with a “No Way!” and he turns to his left, where the smallest but perhaps most charming member of Houses, an LA-based band on tour with Baths, sits quietly. “This is the first edition Baths t-shirt! From like three years ago!” I was proudly wearing the shirt that I had indeed bought three years ago, at the exact same merchandise counter, when I had last seen Baths on his previous tour. Still smiling, he coyly reaches for a pile of stickers, saying “That deserves one of these…” and I soon have in hand a sticker and new edition, signed Baths t-shirt.
As the opening act begins, the Denver crowd shuttles into the venue, becoming grouped along the sides of Bluebird, slowly filling the floor, and the few dancing early-comers become aware of the increasingly limited floor space. D33J, the first opener (pronounced “deege”), is the solo act from Djvan Santos, also a member of Wedidit Collective, a group that includes acts such as Shlomo, RL Grime, Groudislava and Ryan Hemsworth. Signed to Anticon in 2012, D33J has a dreamy style with pronounced, often hip hop influenced beats that compliment the ethereal tones of his melodies. Occasionally featuring reverb soaked female vocals that drone over Gold Panda-esque rhythms, D33J rates high on the dancability index. In the same vein as early Baths performance, D33J uses an AKAI controller to tastefully insert beat repeats, EQ filters, and other effects on top of his clips, offering an interesting blend of recorded music and live effects processing. Check out more of D33J and his remixes at his sound cloud, https://soundcloud.com/d33j
Houses, a four piece band from LA, followed D33J with their Expostions in the Sky psych rock that features lead male and backup female vocals. Throughout their set the band demonstrated their talent through the diversity of their sound, which included everything from upbeat vocal harmonies to creeping chord structures, electronic drum kits, and e-bow induced guitar solos. With complex lyrical lines that beg for replay, rich sonic textures formed in guitar/vocal harmonies, Houses was an impressive second act. I especially enjoyed their sometimes unconventional yet well chosen drum samples, easy feeling guitar lines and did I mention vocal harmony? Make sure you check out their website at housesmusic.com for some cool music videos and a tour schedule.
Through Wiesenfeld had told me up front that the show would be “a little bit different than the last show…” considering that he would be performing with the aide of another person, nothing could qualm the excitement and anticipation of such a great show to be. From the front row on the floor, I watch the quick transition from Houses to the new Baths setup. Turning around for the first time since D33J’s set, I’m struck by a Bluebird now packed full of people and energy. In his signature tank top and clear glasses, Baths and his co-performer, named only as Morgan, take the stage, opening their set with ìWorsening,î the opener for his newest album, Obsidian. Foretelling a signature of the set to come, one of “Worsening”‘s most prominent features is abrupt transitions from heavy and full walls of sound to quiet piano melodies, executed with perfect construction and premonition. Accomplished in a manner as to build excitement, anticipation and thrill all in one package, this accentuation of a large dynamic range became a theme of the show, a quality pronounced even further in a live setting than on Obsidian (listen: “No Past Lives”).
To the delight of many screaming fans, the intro rift of Baths’ single “Miasma Sky” soon came crackling through the speakers. A perpetuating four-four beat syncopated aimiably by the pop bassline provide the structure on top of which a smiling performer sings joyfully to the tune of ethereal synths. All the while, Morgan’s carefully places beat repeats and filter effects at the end of phrases. the work previously undertaken by a younger Baths, who now in the present performance is free to focus on vocal effects and live piano playing — elements that were until this tour out-prioritized by the limitations of his solo act. In clear synergism with one another, Wiesenfeld and Morgan exchange frequent glances to ensure their togetherness, which is so intact that their appearance as two separate performers is near indistinguishable.
Not only did Baths play all the tracks from his newest album, there were several throwbacks scattered through out the set, including one instance of a live vocal looping interlude which allowed for a comfortable transition between songs of different emotional tones. Also included were tracks from Cerulean, such as “Lovely Bloodflow,” as well as “Plea,” recognized by many fans; the Denver crowd knows how to sing-a-long! Despite many annoying teens shouting for Animals! Animals! Baths stuck to his guns and played the amazing set that he had planned on. Coming back for an encore of two songs, one of which was slow and came with instruction to “vibe it out,” (read: “Inter”) and the last, “No Eyes,” one of my favorites from the album.
But perhaps my favorite song came at the middle of the set: out of the thickness of Baths’ sonic exploration came “Earth Death,” an unreleased track which I had the pleasure of hearing live for the second time since his last show. Revamped since its previous debut, ìOcean Deathî features electronic mid-frequency chords heavily side-chained to a solid four-four kick drum, topped off with a deep and morphing bass rumble, the upbeat track is reminiscent of bass tracks of the early the nineties. Towards the end of the track comes Wiesenfeld’s passionate near-screaming vocal overlays, singing “Bury your body in my, bury your body in my graveyard” from the heart. A head-banging pleasure, the whole of Bluebird was jumping up and down, banging on the stage, the walls and stomping around like everything was falling down. Concluding the song, Baths is left with only one thing to say: Denver you’ve been the most fun of all my shows!
While I would have liked to hear new material (one can always hope at a live show), Baths nevertheless played an amazing set full of interesting twists that were in part due to the dual-performance, allowing for greater freedom of improv from both Morgan and Wiesenfeld alike. As a dedicated and loyal listener, I can truly say that this show was absolutely amazing, and if ever given the chance DO NOT MISS A BATHS SHOW! His great talent and ability to convey true emotional depth shines through in every wonderful song – a quality seldom seen and often sought after in today’s super-saturated musical modernity.
Review and Photos by David Riott