Gig review: When the openers outshine the headliners – Young Buffalo, The Dig, Chief – 12/7/2010 – Bowery Ballroom, NYC

A really shitty picture of Chief from the balcony at the B. Ballroom

There are a few times I can recall an opener outshining a headliner, rarely can I say that the two openers outshined the headliner and did so in a big way.

This is the case with what happened at the Bowery Ballroom on Tuesday night. Los Angeles/NYC band Chief was headlining a gig in support of their 2010 debut, Modern Rituals. I first heard the album a few months ago and while not particularly moved one way or another, they were good enough to give an evening to, as the tunes are definitely pleasant.

This review will be in reverse order because of the quality of performance.

The night started late (natural at this venue) so when Chief finally took the stage, the only thing we could think of was, “It’s about damn time”. Chief, while very capable seemed to lack any fire in what they were doing and even their strong tunes, such as set closer “Night & Day” came off very weak and extremely M.O.R. (middle of the road).  I almost wanted to leave in the middle of their set I was so damn bored. They (namely the wack-ass drummer) tried to get the place going with cliched calls from his kit, but the attempts were laughable. Positively, Chief excels in bringing back the mid-70s big arena sound combined with Fleet Foxes-esque harmonies. The bassist (who’s name I am having trouble locating due to the band name) was quite good and seemed to really get into the gig. Needless to say, I was quite unimpressed with this band who have come across a lot better in sessions that I’ve viewed and listened to online. The songs fell flat on this night.

Prior to Chief was NYC’s “The Dig“. I had never heard this band before and I was very impressed with their tunes and live chops, especially bassist and lead singer Emile Mosseri’s vocals.  Songs like “Penitentiary”  and “You’re Already Gone” were impressive with Mosseri driving the tunes and really getting into it. I liked the hand off of the lead vocals to guitarist David Baldwin on some tunes, however, unlike Mosseri, Baldwin’s voice seemed to lack any real power behind it. I would suggest Mr. Baldwin get a vocal coach because his vocals are not unpleasant and are quite fitting backing, but comprise a very weak lead, especially when he’s following a Mosseri led song. The Dig set the table nicely for Chief who promptly delivered a Shit Sandwich to the table.

Prior to The Dig was a band I had never even heard the name of before and had no idea what I was in for when they took the stage. Oxford, Mississippis, “Young Buffalo“.  Prior to them taking the stage, I noticed a guy meandering about the very empty at the time venue floor, turns out this was one of the bandmembers who did not look like a bandmember. In fact, if you saw any of these guys on the street, you’d never guess they were in a band. Well, lets just say they started the night and set the fucking building on fire with their short, but completely awesome set. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Young Buffalo were the best opener I have witnessed this year for any band.  Upon returning home, I looked to find as much as I could on them, but aside from some Bandcamp demos (most of which are on their Myspace), there is not much out there.  I did learn that they have a record coming out on Fat Possum in “early 2011”. I am definitely excited to hear what they can do in the studio because these kids rock.

One of the most interesting aspects of Young Buffalo was the constant shuffle of personnel (hence no names are used since I have no clue who is who). One would play drums one song, the next song that same guy would be on guitar. It was really refreshing to see this kind of musicianship, especially w/ a band that is pretty much unknown and so young. I was disappointed their set had to come to an end and I’m eager to see them again in the future. Kudos to their fantastic cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” to close the set and pitch perfect three-part harmonies. Think Fleet Foxes with a harder edge and less “ethereal” (I love the Foxes btw) and you’ll get an idea of Young Buffalo’s sound.

Here’s a great video of Young Buffalo tune, “New Beat”, which absolutely soared live.


Chief: 2/10

The Dig: 7/10

Young Buffalo 9/10

The true definition of a show that started immensely and went downhill and hit a big ass boulder at the bottom of the ravine.

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