by Laura Wasson
After my rollicking interview with Chamber Band last week, I was more excited than ever to finally see them live at Spike Hill this past Friday. Despite the midnight set time, the group delivered a strong, ebullient performance that held the crowd of friends, family, and ardent fans captive from start to finish. While watching the quintet, I had two revelations:
Revelation One: Storytelling isn’t a lost art—it’s merely a dormant one. Chamber Band’s debut LP, Deities, exists in the world of Dungeons & Dragons, a game I’ve never played and know precious little about. Their close to hour-long set included, among others, “Shapeshifter,” “Oh Io,” and “Yeenoghu”—all songs that reference various DnD gods, monsters, and lovelorn peasants. Listening carefully to the lyrics, I realized that while DnD might serve as the starting point for each, it doesn’t confine the songs; it enriches them.
As frontman Chris Littler and fellow singer Ellen Winter conjured images of an arduous journey and death, I was reminded of Led Zeppelin, another band that never shied away from constructing little lyrical universes. It’s impossible to go to any concert, it seems, and not encounter some drawling, heartfelt love song that is emotional but more than lacking in originality. I applaud Chamber Band for approaching the subject from a completely different perspective without losing any heart in the process.
Revelation Two: Chamber Band is a live band. While there is certainly nothing sonically wrong with Deities (I can imagine playing it softly in the background on a lazy Sunday at home), the infectious, playful spirit the group has live doesn’t really manifest itself on the album. I suppose in many ways it would be like watching a video of DnD as opposed to actually playing the game.
While spontaneous moments can be recorded and watched or listened to again and again, they ultimately lose something in the capturing. One of the best parts of the evening was seeing how much fun this merry troupe of “nerds” had while performing together: they laughed, they teased, they danced, and whether you cared about the DnD references or not, it was impossible not to pick up on that.
Chamber Band completely lacks self importance and—for me at least—that’s what separates them from the ever-growing herd of Brooklyn bands, not their choice of concept. They work hard and have fun, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what the game of life is all about?