I think I’m coming around on Crystal Stilts. An abundance of people whose opinions I trust have had good things to say about them in the past, and I’m finding my indifference towards them moving distinctly towards the “like” column. Seeing them live had a dual effect on me: on the plus side, I found myself noticing the presence of more subtle notes in their deadpan pop songs, which in turn made me more appreciative of the music that they were playing, and has prompted me to delve back into Alight of Night and their self-titled 12″. On the minus side — and admittedly, this is a live-show-only qualm — the group’s stage presence can be frustrating. Admittedly, the Prospect Park Bandshell is a space for which the word “cavernous” is an understatement, but nonetheless: with the exception of bassist Kyle Forrester and (possibly) drummer Frankie Rose, the band did a good job of hiding any visible intensity, while nonetheless playing in a way that didn’t sound at all halfhearted. Admittedly, it’s a difficult trick to pull off, but at the same time: it’s hard for me to feel compelled by what I hear coming from the stage if the band doesn’t look particularly concerned about it.
Headliners Dean & Britta were, admittedly, not exactly channeling the early-80s Replacements on stage, but even playing with minimal lighting beneath Andy Warhol’s screen tests, they never ceased to draw attention. The onstage rapport between Britta Philips and Dean Wareham, the drumming of Anthony LaMarca, and Wareham’s tendency to go for the unexpected in his solos all contributed to the group’s ability to be compelling on stage. The set, including covers of Bob Dylan and Lou Reed songs (Reed’s screen test needed no introduction, and got a fair amount of applause from the crowd), never lacked for dynamic range, and the encore of Galaxie 500‘s “Fourth of July” felt spot-on.