Grandchildren @ Pianos, NYC – December 2, 2010


Pianos is tiny. Or, I should say, the ground floor showroom where I went is tiny. The front part is taken up by the bar. The upstairs used for other shows and DJ’s. A tiny bar sits tucked into the corner. The modest stage sits plainly against the back wall, with a house drum kit that only moves side to side, never off the stage.

The first band, Diehard, played through their set, rocked a bit, and had a good time. While musically tight, there was something missing. They clearly had the best banter of the night. They were followed by Dinowalrus, a trio of guys who could not decide if they were a dancy electronic band or an ambient indie rock outfit, though they played both well.

Before Dinowalrus could go on, however, the fire alarm kept going off, causing the band to make a song out of the incessant buzzing noise. After that cleared, and Dinowalrus played their set, we still weren’t done with the fire. Someone left their coat too close to a candle, which went up in flames, all while Grandchildren were cramming their many instruments on stage.

While both previous acts fit with relative ease on the stage, Grandchildren and its six members had to pick a spot and sway there. Complete with a drummer, percussionist, two guitarists, bassist and synth player, they broke into their first song, full of ambient noise and tribal drums.

The next thing I knew, it was 45 minutes later and I had been swallowed by a wall of sound. Time passed, moments lingered, everyone in Grandchildren played something like 15 different instruments and I was in awe. While I had heard a handful of songs before, nothing prepared me for their live show. Even through all the space and fuzz of their set, they were incredibly tight. Theirs is the type of music that is better to enjoy than to think “how did they come up with this?”

Lest we think Grandchildren are trying to reinvent Broken Social Scene by throwing 15 of their friends on stage, everyone in Grandchildren plays a significant part. Even the drummer is not just a drummer, as he hops over his drumset, heads to a synth machine, grabs a microphone and belts out lyrics. Or the main vocalist giving his bass to another band member, hopping behind drums and rocking out. And so on down the list.

There is a point in most shows when one realizes who the headliners are, even if unaware before the show started. The opening bands, though playing as well as they can, sound differently than the really polished headliner (though not always). While I enjoyed the sets from Dinowalrus and Diehard, when Grandchildren got up, it was a different sound. All three bands had played with the same set up, the same sound system, yet with Grandchildren it felt complete. If they made mistakes, it was lost within the overall atmosphere of the set.

Grandchildren continue their residency at Pianos the next two Thursdays (the 9th and 16th), with different opening acts. Everyone needs to go see it, to experience something beautiful. I will be back, not to cover it or write articles but to merely enjoy.

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