Comic drawn during show by Hazel Newlevant
Three bands took the Knitting Factory stage early Saturday morning, with each using electronics to showcase a different musical style.
The unexpected gem of the lineup, The Son of Stan, consisted of only a guitarist and drummer, but the performers brought an energy, creativity, and cohesion that was unparalleled throughout the rest of the night. Of the three bands, The Son of Stan proved most adept at manipulating guitar-pedal effects indicative of live synthesizers, while also displaying keen musical agility, and well-coordinated math rock segments and breaks.
Upbeat and frenzied, The Son of Stan made effective use of toms, cymbal fills, and rolls to keep every song racing through to the finish. Call-and-response structures between the guitar riff and the vocals allowed the frontman to introduce complex chord changes and soloing without breaking the beat or faltering on the mic. The band also incorperated an interesting blend of influences—from shredding guitar lines and active drum beats of '00s metal, to the open four-chord choruses and pleasing lyrical rhymes of '80s rock.
Surfing, melodic guitar riffs, use of cabinet effects on the guitar that gave a hollow yet muffled sound, and deep, rich, if limited, vocals numbered among Rewards' strong points. However, their set was disorganized, and the band relied so heavily on a pre-recorded track that the significance of the live performers was all but destroyed. Often the live drumming and guitar just added a rich sonic layer, but the bulk of what the listener heard came from the beat and melody already on the track.
Rewards had some cool ideas about incorporating electronics and smooth vocals, but it wasn’t coming together on Saturday. When the band put in backup vocals and live bass, the extra texture and expansion of range really added to the songs; but Rewards will have to put more into their performances and work out coordination kinks in the practice room if they want to bring their sense of ambitious ingenuity to full potential.
Headliner Har Mar Superstar brought an unprecedented amount of personality to his set that outshined anything coming out of the speakers. His sometimes annoying use of a track, or the fun, funky quality of his riffs paled in importance, because when taking to the stage Har Mar Superstar began screaming that he is something quite different from a front man of a rock group.
Har Mar Superstar is an alternative pop icon; a new-age diva.
This balding, overweight man works everything he’s got, and while most superstars are all about being someone extraordinary, Har Mar is all about being himself—to a hyperbolized extent. Most of his song lyrics could be filed under “too much information,” but this artist’s star power comes from his overdramatized candidness. He throws all insecurity under the limelight, and the audience ate him up.
Musically, the band was enjoyable, if not extraordinary. The pairing of four-chord riffs with a tropical timbre would find a welcome setting at a posh pool party, and Har Mar’s angelic falsetto interspersed with deeper, punchier vocals was refreshing. Annoyingly, the band relied heavily on a drum track for most of the numbers, but the live drummer also actively contributed to the sound. To the band’s credit, it progressively scaled back the track throughout the night, and brought out instrumental talent in live solos. And by the concert’s close Har Mar was performing solo without a mic. Engaging a cheering crowd, he extended the last number indefinitely with repetition of the line, “It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.”
Har Mar Superstar is what’s missing from the celebrity scene. He vindicates that nagging feeling of inadequacy that sidelines the starstruck. His songs are an anthem that, if we can embrace ourselves, anybody can be a superstar.