Live: Her Space Holiday/Lymbyc Systym/We Were Wolves

Her Space Holiday pic #1
Marc Bianchi of Her Space Holiday. Photo by Aimee Brodeur.

WALTER'S ON WASHINGTON -- 6/27/08: Sitting outside Walter's on Washington around 8:45 Friday night before last, someone asks my friend Sean and I, "do you think Her Space Holiday will be more electronic or acoustic tonight?", a question we could only shrug at. Having never seen Marc Bianchi's electro-pop act live before and having not read much about their shows, I wasn't sure how the songs would be presented. Would Bianchi have a full band behind him? Or would it be more of a one- or two-person setup, with him relying on samples and synths? I had guessed Bianchi would be performing something on the electronic side, telling this to some other somewhat electro-phobic friends and in the process driving them into the arms of locals the Tontons and Riff Tiffs at Warehouse Live (if only I could be in two places at once...). In the end, though, my guess would be proven wrong, as Bianchi took the stage with five other individuals, taking a guitar/piano-driven approach to the music. Though this is not what I expected, I was nowhere near disappointed. In fact, after having some time to digest the show, I still can't find one bad thing to say about Her Space Holiday's performance.
Beaumont's We Were Wolves got things started that night with a set of straightforward hard rock that was a bit on the predictable side. There was fancy fretwork, palm-muting, guitar hoisting, and rock posturing, but the sparse crowd just didn't seem impressed, offering only weak spurts of applause after most songs. Though I was not particularly thrilled, either, I felt for the four-piece, as it's never easy to be the odd-band-out at a show or the "TBA" that no one knows about before they take the stage, and that night We Were Wolves were both. Toward the end of the band's set, their mutton-chopped bassist commented on their indifferent reception, saying, "Houston, you are bulletproof." Really, though, I think we were all just a step ahead of their line of fire.
Next up was Austin/Phoenix duo Lymbyc Systym, playing together for the first time in a while, according to keyboardist Jared Bell, due to he and his brother/drummer Mike living in different cities. Rather than being rusty, though, the Brothers Lymbyc were on target and full of energy, re-focusing the thickening crowd with Mike Bell's busy drum-work and seamless shifting between drums and xylophone. This, coupled with his sibling's three-keyboard attack of spacious noise and saturated Rhodes piano, made for an engaging set of ambient, instrumental post-rock that was reminiscent of The Album Leaf and sounded like one hell of a practice session.
Her Space Holiday pic #2
Marc Bianchi. Photo by Timothy Norris.

I began to sense something very special was afoot when Lymbyc Systym's set ended and the Bell brothers reorganized their instruments onstage rather than removing them. My senses proved me right as it became clear they would be joining Her Space Holiday's crew, a crew that also included The American Analog Set's Andrew Kenny(!) on guitar, another drummer, and a bassist. The collective seemed to be enjoying themselves from the moment they began playing, trading smiles amongst one another during the set's opener, "The Year In Review," one of a few tracks played from Marc Bianchi's more guitar-oriented project xoxo, panda.
Bianchi was relaxed and talkative, at one point humorously referencing southern rapper Lil' Wayne's Tha Carter III during a percussion-only part of one song, saying, "that's how you let the beat build." In addition to the xoxo, panda material, the set also saw the appearance of a couple of new songs, as well as a country-tinged cover of Wolf Parade's "I'll Believe in Anything," all of which were thoroughly enjoyed by both band and audience. The band was at their most crowd-pleasing, however, when playing songs from Her Space Holiday's excellent 2003 release The Young Machines.
"Sleepy California" sounded every bit as intimate and personal live as it does through headphones and had several in the audience singing along with Bianchi's auto-biographical lyrics. "Tech Romance" and "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend"'s violin arrangements were exceptionally translated to Rhodes piano thanks to Jared Bell and were well lent to the two-drummer setup on stage. Bianchi bid the crowd farewell after the latter track, but an encore was an obvious must, and the band was back within two minutes, treating us to a slightly laid-back version of the fantastic Young Machines track "Japanese Gum" and a joyfully reckless cover of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away."
As the crowd herded out of Walter's I felt a sense of excitement in the air about what we all had just witnessed. The local show at Warehouse Live that night was reportedly fantastic (something I don't doubt, as Houston's music scene is teeming with great bands right now), but I was glad to have strayed away from the natives for a night to be captivated by Lymbyc Systym and Her Space Holiday and to be reminded how much fun it is to see a band enjoy a show just as much as the audience. END