Let Me Entertain You: Dean & Britta @ Trocadero 8.20.10

I’ve seen a number of bands perform on so-called ‘reunion’ or ‘comeback’ tours, but I’ve never seen something quite like the show that Dean & Britta put on at the Trocadero just over a week ago.  The concert was billed as Dean Wareham plays the music of Galaxie 500 which, if you’re not familiar with Wareham’s fantastic career arc, was Dean’s first band.  Rather than getting Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang (the other two members of Galaxie 500) involved, Dean unashamedly went out with his current band to bring his earliest songs to eager fans.  In numerous interviews, Dean chalked his decision up to the simple fact that he and Damon and Naomi don’t get along anymore, but that he still wanted to play these songs live in some fashion.  Call his ambition questionable or admirable, but Dean & Britta did their best to emulate Galaxie 500’s instantly-recognizable sound.

What made Galaxie 500 such a unique band for their time (as well as a lasting influence) was their sound.  Though Dean’s second band, Luna, featured some of the best-known songs of his career, his sonic prowess was truly in the spotlight in Galaxie 500.  First was Dean’s own layered guitar and high-register vocals.  Next was Damon’s reverb-heavy drum snaps, which punctuated unassuming yet complex percussion patterns.  Finally there was Naomi’s bassline, played impossibly high up on the neck to give the notes an ethereal ring.  Naturally, bass duties have been picked up by Britta Phillips, who also played in Luna and is Dean’s musical (and marital) partner.  Going to this show, I expected a Galaxie 500-heavy set, especially since this band recently released a lovely collection of music composed for Andy Warhol’s screen tests.  However, true to its advertised name, this was a salute to Galaxie 500’s music (and their noted cover versions) exclusively.

Like many shows that graced the Trocadero over the past few years, this one was unfortunately lightly attended.  Also like those other shows, the small crowd and the band were completely into each other.  Opening band Crystal Stilts brought some gloomy surf pop to both break the ice and solidify it.  The songs they played were fun and intriguing, but it was Dean & Britta that the people who were there were there to see.

With little interruption between songs, the band played though favorites from Galaxie 500’s three albums, with a particular focus on their first two albums, Today and On Fire.  Despite their widespread influence, Galaxie 500 themselves had little mainstream success, though a number of the songs chosen, such as “Tugboat” and “Strange,” are some of the group’s best.  One of the cornerstones of Galaxie 500’s live and recorded performances was an eclectic assortment of covers, which were featured this night in the form of New Order‘s “Ceremony” and a showstopping take on Jonathan Richman‘s “Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste.”  Though a full-on reunion might have added another level of must-see-ability to this series of performances, this was a lovely experience to watch a songwriter get as much out of revisiting his own material as his fans do when they do the same.

Click the picture at the top of this post to see more pictures of Dean & Britta in concert!!

~ by E. on August 31, 2010.

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