Do Make Say Think @ Biltmore -- 02/06/10

I didn't know how close I was to doom. This show kind of snuck up on me, and due to my own fault (and ticketmaster's utter failure) I wasn't able to get advance tickets to the show. And then I find out advance tickets were sold out! Luckily, there were some available at the door and we got there early enough to ensure tickets. And I am glad I did, because this was an experience I would not want to have missed.

The show started a little early, surprisingly enough, with Ohad Benchetrit taking the stage and talking about how the show was going to be a "moon landing" since there was a curfew and they had to be off at 11. He also mentioned the "format", for lack of a better term. Since all three bands were variations of Do Make Say Think, there would be minimal time for reorganization between sets. It was actually pretty cool the way they did it, and the result was two and a half hours of almost constant music. Which is especially nice on curfew shows like this.

First up was Years, Ohad's solo project. It started with him on guitar with a trumpeteer, who left after a song leaving Benchetrit up there solo with just a guitar and looping/effects pedal. He created an incredible sound, and had I just heard it, not seen it live, I would never have guessed it was one guy. After a few songs he invited the band to come back on and help him out. It was a bit lighter and less intense than Do Make Say Think, but at the same time it was a bit too similar. Not that that is a bad thing by any means, but the songs felt like they were DMST b-sides rather than a solo project. I liked his first few songs quite a bit more, when it was Benchetrit and his guitar. Years was on for about half an hour before a five minute break for the "next band".

The second incarnation was The Happiness Project. Which isn't really the name of the band, but the "project". It is Charles Spearin's "science experiment" (as he puts it) and was actually one of the most intriguing albums I've heard this year. The project revolves around Spearin taking interview clips with his neighbours and building music around the natural cadence and flow of their voices, so before every song he would introduce the subject of the song and they would go into the song. Going into the show I was just as interested in seeing this live as I was DMST, but also kind of hesitant. It's pretty high concept, and I had no idea how it would turn out live... but me of little faith. He had the interview clips at his beck and call on his pedals, and the band wove some fantastic music with and around the voices. The most interesting was Vanessa. She was born deaf, but got a microchip and microphone inserted in her brain and at the age of 30 heard sound for the first time. The clip was about how she processed that, and again, they built around her voice magnificently. The project as a whole is pretty ambitious, and it was absolutely unreal seeing it performed live.

And after about a ten minute break, everyone came back in the guise of Do Make Say Think. They started with "Make" off the new album and played right up until they were kicked off, just after 11. And the show made me come to the conclusion that Do Make Say Think is not a band. They are a force of nature. Their albums are full of depth and complexities, and they managed to not only match that in their live show, but perhaps top it with even more depth. It helped that there were nine of them packed on the stage, complete with guitars, bass, trumpets, cornets, saxophone, keyboard, violin and two drummers. Yet despite the large numbers, and long songs, it never felt like it was "too much"; too bulky or too meandering. They hit the perfect stride, with the quiet lows balancing the epic crescendos. Crescendos that, at times, had the band going batshit insane, and melting your face with an incredible wall of noise. As you may be able to tell from my somewhat awkward attempts, it was almost indescribable how powerful they are live. Sometimes, I find, instrumental music can be difficult to get into live, but Do Make Say Think captivates you and draws you in at the first note. They are definitely an essential live experience.