The Variety Playhouse featured a triple threaton Feb. 23 with a concert that featured an arrayof talents. The show starred Canadian indie duo Tegan and Sara with opening performancesby Steel Train and Holly Miranda.
Variety Playhouse itself is located in a colorful district. An eclectic mix of inner-city decay and Bohemian flavors, the area itself is filled with interesting stores and an artistic brand of graffiti. The Playhouse and the shows it features definitely fit the atmosphere well.
The concert kicked off with performances bySteel Train, a band from New Jersey. The songs they featured were a mix of traditional rock with heavy elements of “emo” and garage punk. The “emo-esque” aspect of their music became more apparent as the songs continue on with lyrics about youth angst and the singing and playing became overly emotional. The band’s sense of humor, while mildly amusing, bordered on surreal with references to non-sequiturs such as Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week.”
Their songs near the end had some definite highlights, including a choral folk piece that brought their manic energy to a low and transitioned well into the next band. A recurring motif of their songs was singing in unison, particularly in more emotional passages, reminiscent of the Canadian band Arcade Fire. Fans of the pop-punk and the youth-oriented lyrics associated with Arcade Fire will definitely find something to enjoy here. For everyone else, this band might be a bit over the top to enjoy casually.
Following up this group was an even more recent band, Holly Miranda. Featuring a much more ethereal sound, this band was the midway point in style between the preceding and following acts. The songs incorporated synthesizers to create a darker (but not gloomy) atmosphere which allowed for a more a resonant sound. The singer’s resonant, yet melodic voice complemented the music very well, creating a lush and orchestral sound.
A particularly notable moment was when Steel Train was invited to join the band in singing a more poignant, folksy ballad. Holly Miranda entertains as much as the main act and the darker, orchestral sound was a highlight of the concert.
Tegan and Sara, the main act, definitely reached an energy level that’s a notch above the other performers. The intensity of this group peaked the performance. The songs epitomized pop with enthusiastic singing and playing followed by powerful, bombastic percussion. The percussion was noticeably in the foreground on the music, enhancing the power of the performance, but also leaving it noticeably open to repetition.
The dialogue between the two sisters was entertaining albeit corny and helped ease the transition from song to song especially during technical difficulties. Overall, the band represented standard pop and, while it didn’t seem particularly noteworthy, was still enjoyable.
The three bands of the night
represented very different regions of music. Steel Train, while energetic
and entertaining, was ultimately appealing to a niche audience. Holly Miranda, with its dark, lush sound has elements that can appeal to anyone with a
Tegan and Sara are for the most part, a pop standard, and can be enjoyed by any audience looking for an emotional or energetic uplift. This concert’s success and failure relied on the mixing of a diverse group of musicians in one show, which while creating something for everyone, also leaves a little to be desired from everyone as well.