Reviewed: The Notwist @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 10/18/08

Image courtesy of Google Images
Words by Erin Wolf

Turner Hall Ballroom was at its most soothing state Saturday evening, with the joint efforts of D.C.’s Le Loup and Germany’s the Notwist. Although possessing a confident stage dominance, both bands also possessed an innate knack for a lovely sense of purposed calm. The Notwist, especially, had this chilled out, quiet force nailed, and let opener Le Loup shake the nervous energy off.

The six-piece from D.C. came off as a cross between indie-oddballs Cloud Cult with their frenetic pop style, and the organic vocals of mellowed-out folk rockers, Fleet Foxes and sonic catches of Brit-rockers, Foals and Frightened Rabbit. Only during the slower songs, did  Le Loup get a bit bogged down, sounding more unbecomingly grunge-y, and unable to keep their vocals from falling flat. They did best when adhering to the their original pop formula.

The small but sweet crowd at the show eagerly edged up front for the Notwist, and the entire length of the stage was lined with expectant listeners, leaning in and looking up to catch the German five-piece play their bittersweet indie-tronica. Lead guitarist and vocalist Markus Acher’s Hot Snakes t-shirt blared red from the stage, the rest of the band awash in red and blue lights. Programmer Martin Gretschmann flanked Acher, holding what appeared to be Wiimotes, alternatingly fiddling with the console and controlling it from a distance, bobbing back and forth like a horizon-light. Drummer Andi Haberl loomed over the rest of the band, busy plucking bass strings and playing Rhodes notes, manipulating the songs’ tones as much as Gretschmann.

The band’s original dark, more metal beginnings rarely showed, but when they did, it was a pleasant surprise. The warm cocoon of Acher’s boyish and placid vocals (reminiscent of Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws), and the thumps and blips surrounding it were lifted by the ever-present uniqueness of the melodic guitars. Occasionally, there was a jarring-awake with a cold splash of jagged riffs and alley-can drumming. 

Most of the material, from the band’s latest release on Domino, The Devil, You + Me, brought the crowd into visible appreciation with clapping, singing and of course, dancing and much of the set was infiltrated by house-like undertones, occasionally breaking into thick, crunchy bass lines, pulled lightly above with dissonant but pretty melody lines. Listeners were mesmerized, and clamored for more at sets’ end, which the band readily complied, playing three more, including one of their most popular, “Good Lies”. “Let’s just imitate the real, until we find a better one,” Acher sang, and the small but wound up crowd at Turner seemed to understand, now more than ever, the message behind the words. They danced their understanding, leaving a satisfied feeling of communication between audience and band by the time the soft red and blue lights had turned to bright white.
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