I decided to kick off this year’s festival with the first Optical showcase, Kollaborations, which began with a wholesome, down-home performance by Peter Broderick. Proving himself to be a jack of all trades, he moved from the piano to the fiddle to singing a capella with the same loose vitality of a street performer doing a one-man show. Some of his songs were little too lovey-dovey for my surly tastes. He might have found an untapped market for writing children’s songs for discerning ears with his beautiful, hokey musings on the magic and wonder of good friends.
When Nils Frahm joined him to perform as their collaborative (kollaborative?) outfit, Oliveray, Broderick stepped out of his modestly dressy ensemble and into Levis and a flannel. He seemed to be more in his groove when complemented by the casual, hoodie-clad Frahm.
Both artists played an impressive soundtrack to an epic war movie, minus the weak dialog and disturbing historical inaccuracies. However, they were far from serious as they began playing with miscellaneous instruments on stage. Banging bongos, tooting trumpets, and shaking noise-makers, the two were reminiscent of little boys left unsupervised in a playroom, finally given a chance to be purposefully loud with reckless abandon.
Needless to say, it was a large improvement from Frahm’s Optical appearance last year, proven by the packed theater that night and the following night for his solo performance.
Next up was Hauschka, another German pianist who had the demeanor and stage presence of your stereotypical absent-minded composer. Both he and his piano, projected on the large screen above him, were a pleasure to watch. He had placed a myriad of random found objects inside in his piano and being able to see why we were hearing the sounds that we were was a nice touch.
“I am thankful for these beer bottle caps. An entire program was built around these,” he said. And we watched those caps hop into the air like Mexican jumping beans as he banged away on the ivory.
The latter part of the performance had him plucking the items from the piano, and the sound of him dropping them to the floor were made to be a memorable part of the act.
After following throngs of people down Second Avenue, I walked into the Crocodile to hear Ghost Feet already in progress. Like most psychedelic electronic jam bands, they played a fun, slightly improvised set. I thought of them as kind of a “Lapalux Lite” but maybe that’s only because Lapalux was who I came to see.
Natasha Kmeto brought strong vocals and a strong following as the dancefloor filled to catch her sultry style. Both her sound and presence have matured since her appearance at last year’s festival, but she remains down-to-earth and easy to like. Her set was close to her album, Crisis, and I’ve been singing “it’s been a while, I need peace from all the things I’m supposed to be” in my head ever since.
Lapalux started off in unfamiliar territory but quickly moved into hits from his most recent album, Nostalchic. The set didn’t feel entirely dance-worthy to me, but he played some of my favorites and my complaints are too minor to mention.
I’m glad my tired old ass left when I did because my sources say Actress was a total snoozefest. I had high hopes for the guy, since his recorded work is so good, but as one fan said, “You how it’s really boring to watch someone experiment with sounds and hooks when they’re just messing around with equipment in the studio? It sounded like that.” We don’t need to see the process, we want to see the execution. Better bring it next time!