Grouplove with Reptar - Webster Hall, NY (6.12.12)
Posted by Matt Arena on 06.19.2012
Quickly rising to alt-rock prominence after the release of their debut album, 'Never Trust a Happy Song,' Grouplove brought their first ever national headlining tour to New York's legendary Webster Hall. Bringing with them the equally talented Reptar, it was a night of dance-rock like no other.
For a band that released their debut album less than a year ago, Grouplove have certainly made quite a name for themselves. And in a quiet way. Unlike recent artists that seem to have one song hit REALLY big, Grouplove have a pretty even spread on the popularity of their material. This wasn’t the type of show where you get the “I’m just here for (insert hit single here)” crowd, which sadly has become for too common. That’s not a knock on bands that achieve popularity that way; after all they can’t exactly force people to listen to all their music. But it’s a trend nonetheless. So it’s refreshing to find a band like Grouplove who are becoming more popular by the minute, and having the majority of the crowd know almost all their material. Of course they do have some songs that are singles and more popular than others, ‘Colours’ and ‘Tongue Tied’ were featured on a slew of sports videogames and an iPod commercial respectively, but there’s more of an even spread here. This is most likely due to the varying nature of their sound. Throughout ‘Never Trust a Happy Song,’ tracks feature any one of three band members on lead vocals, as each puts a different spin on the music. Christian Zucconi shrieks like a restless banshee on songs like ‘Colours,’ Hannah Hooper’s smooth vocals provide mellower tracks like ‘Slow,’ and bassist Sean Gadd’s bluesy melodies can be found on more upbeat songs like ‘Chloe.’ It keeps the band’s aesthetic from becoming static and not only makes the album that much more listenable, but keeps the dynamic of the live show ever changing as well. Though only playing their first show as a band a little over two years ago, they embarked on their very own headlining tour. They’ve been ripping through the US, hitting up major festival stops like Bonnaroo and Sasquatch, leaving their mark on every stage they’ve taken. Coming almost to end of the tour has brought them to Webster Hall in New York City, hometown of lead singer Christian Zucconi, for a truly incredible show.
First up was Reptar, hailing from Athens, GA and fitting in well with the eccentricity that is Grouplove, with their very unique brand of music. Labeling their genre as “disco dust” (seriously, check their facebook page), once you hear Reptar you’ll understand why. Trying to throw them into restricting genres like “alternative” or “indie-pop” is not only a disservice to their music, it would be flat out wrong. Sometimes ambient rock, other times full on electro-dance-rock (and this is just in one song), Reptar aren’t the type of band you can recommend to a friend with the “they sound like this” line. Fresh off the release of their first ever album, “Body Faucet,” Reptar certainly lived up to their ever growing reputation as a stellar live act. Though a bit lukewarm at first, the crowd quickly became enthralled as they were seemingly caught in the trance of undeniable talent this five-piece has. Not wasting much time talking in between songs, lead singer/guitarist Graham Ulicny fronted the band through their tight 45 minute set as he led the genre-bending charge that is Reptar. The dizzying keyboard work of the boundlessly energetic William Kennedy flowed perfectly with fellow keys/percussionist Poof Daunghty, as the two do a lot to give the band it’s eclectic sound. As the band left the stage, I echoed the sentiment of the very first words told to me about Reptar, “dude, fucking SEE REPTAR LIVE.” You should do the same.
Soon after Reptar left the stage, the house lights went down and the booming intro of Kanye West’s Monster blasted through the venue’s speakers as Grouplove took the stage. Sporting what appeared to be a modest stage design at first glance, the crowd would later find out just how spectacular it really was. Starting the set off with arguably two of the best songs off the album, ‘Lovely Cup’ and ‘Itchin’ on a Photograph’ rocketed the show off with their high energy and bouncy rhythms. These songs are some of Grouplove’s loudest; each having peaking choruses and wailing so powerful it felt the venue might spontaneously explode. Not even three songs in and the floor of the venue was quite literally bouncing, so much so that it was hard to keep the camera steady in the photo pit. A new song was even played, the aptly titled ‘Gonna Get High’, which Hannah gladly informed the crowd that it was indeed “a song about getting high.” As the night wore on, the once basic stage set up started to slowly become more and more bombastic. Would-be mic stands became beacons of neon light, as the previously unseen Christmas lights wrapped around the front of the venue provided an explosion of color that lit the venue up like, well…Christmas. If Christmas were a hippie that liked to imbibe. The brilliance of the stage design was none more apparent than during ‘Slow,’ an atmospheric song that was bolstered by the non-conformist way it was performed. Drummer Ryan Rabin came out from behind his standard kit and stood with a standalone drum, beating upon it with what appeared to be two massive, glowing, electronic noisemakers. Towards the song’s hypnotic, pounding ending, it was further extended, as they even brought out a tapdancer (that’s right, you heard me, A TAPDANCER) to provide further evidence that nobody really can do it like Grouplove. The cacophony of lights and sounds from the extended/tap-dancing version of ‘Slow’ was easily the best way to end the main set and made it easy to understand why the crowd screamed for more.
Coming back on for an encore, the band definitely left the best for last as they played arguably their two biggest songs and a stellar Whitney Houston cover that’s slowly starting to become a staple of their live show. ‘Tongue Tied’ and ‘Colours’ closed out the night, both getting amazing reactions from the crowd as the latter had people dancing as far back as the bathroom entrance. You’d be hard pressed to find someone in that audience who wasn’t screaming along the infectious chorus to ‘Colours’ as the show ended. It must be noted too, what a diverse crowd they pulled. Not only a packed house, but also a sweaty, teeming, throng of fans that ranged from middle aged married couples to 20-something college hipsters. If I told you that you’d get a Kanye West intro, tap-dancing solo, and a cover of 'I Wanna Dance with Somebody' all in the same gig you’d probably call me insane. Well yes it is insane, but that’s a Grouplove show for you.
Feel free to check out all my photos from this show on my flickr page.
The 411: A spinning blur of funky rock, Grouplove continue to prove that just because they're young, they still can but on a show like they've been doing it for decades. The sheer amount of energy this band exudes from the stage is near staggering, and is a live experience you'd be hard pressed to imitate. Support band Reptar personified this on a semi-smaller scale, as it's easy to see why these bands sound so well together.