It’s a tUnE-yArDs revolution! Lady looper Merrill Garbus brought her band tUnE-yArDs to the Mohawk on Wednesday.
Photo gallery below review!
Merrill Garbus is up to something. Under the guise of tUnE-yArDs, she’s breaking down barriers, getting political, and making people to dance to it all. Her sophomore album, w h o k i l l, won the Pazz & Jopp Village Voice album-of-the-year title, and her music has drawn in fans of all stripes for what she describes as “revolutionary booty-shakin’.” She’s a smart songwriter, combining her raw vocal power with undeniable beats and a touch of raucous horns here and there. Simultaneously, she is not shy about tackling very political subjects — feminism, economic injustice, sex and violence — and at the Mohawk last Wednesday, she put on a no-holds-barred performance.
Perhaps people are just tired of the same-old, same-old of typical radio pop. Perhaps people are just tired of being polite. Either way, Garbus’ crowd embraced her face paint and unapologetic roaring from the moment she began looping her vocals as her intro. Despite her at times experimental sound, the audience knew tUnE-yArDs’ lyrics front-to-back, singing them along with her happily. This only fueled Garbus, and she would sometimes record the crowd into her looping.
If you have not seen Garbus before, she is practically a scientist onstage, recording and mixing vocal parts without hesitation, one chord over the other. She uses a foot pedal to do this, merely tapping her foot as she adds another line. Sometimes, you’ll think that there’s no way the part she just howled, cooed or bellowed will fit into the mix, but it always, always does.
She was also very thankful of the crowd and her fans, and especially thanked us all for sticking out her show through an unusually hot Texas night. “Down here, you’re only hardcore if you stay through August. Up in Montreal, it’s the opposite — you have to stay through January and February. March, even.”
The tUnE-yArDs hit “Bizness” was naturally the biggest sing-along, but Garbus didn’t end her set there. When she sang her most recent single, “My Country,” the crowd went crazy as bassist Nate Brenner sang the line, “Oh yes, there’s a place for you/But that place is under the cushion of my behind.”
Following this was the first real encore cry I’d heard from an audience in a long time. There was no break in adoring applause or hoots and hollers, so Garbus happily obliged us and leapt into an older song, “Jumping Jack,” to close the night.
tUnE-yArDs has been a divisive band amongst music critics, but music fans are unified. Garbus crafts emotional, powerful tunes that she presents with raw talent and confidence, so regardless of what is written, it’s safe to say she’ll continue to create and conquer. -Caitlin Wittlif
Mohawk set list:
You Yes You
Real Live Flesh
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