Buke and Gase- Café Du Nord (Monday, February 18)
The night was early and the show was slated to start punctually. Patrons were filling the tiny quarters of this swarthy venue, the Café Du Nord, reminiscent of an early jazz bar. I checked my watch and sure enough it was only 9 pm. Four people took to the stage and the house music slowly stiffened. Guitars rang and drums riveted the ears of a nearly packed venue. It was surprising to see such an attentive audience for the opening band, a clue that it would be a good night with appreciative guests.
The first band were San Francisco locals, Yassou Benedict. They delved into their set with slow melodic guitar riffs, layered with canny keyboards and astute drums. The singer sang in a high-pitched voice reminiscent to Bjork while playing her bass guitar, frequently letting it hang while she switched to the keys. The lead guitar player, clearly the leader of the band, would also alternate his fingers from strings to turning knobs and modulations on her keyboard. During the second song, the guitar player took off his guitar and grabbed a pair of drumsticks; lending side hits on a tom for a crafty percussive experience. While this band was captivating enough, including vocal loops and dreamy guitars, there weren’t many catchy hooks, and their music at times seemed slow and dull, like an emoted roller coaster that never seemed to go up or down.
The second band, Ahleuchatistas, was a cultural storm; a two-piece band derived of pedal laden guitars and a drum set with chimes that were only missing a Chinese Gong. Fast paced jazz style guitar through an octave pedal was backed by short spurts of tribal drumming. It was like members of Meshuggah playing African Jazz in the streets of China.
Buke and Gase, a duo from New York, took the stage wearing all black. The faithful crowd applauded, paying homage to a band that was on three weeks of touring and had about another three months ahead of them. They wasted no time, plunging into dark, fastidious algorithms that seared the soul. The band uses unique instrumentation. Lead singer and guitar player, Arone Dyer, plays a six-string former-baritone ukulel with a low tuning in D. The guitar itself looks very custom, with abalone shimmering the perimeter and hearts sketched where the neck meets the body. Her guitar seemed to be indicative of her character. The bass player, Aron Sanchez, held a solid black guitar with bass strings. The guitar/bass hybrid was very powerful and sounded like he strung instrument with nothing but low E-strings. Together they are very meticulous and calculated, and often starred at each other intimately for the next move, as if their set was intrinsically spontaneous.
While their instrumentation is dazzling, the rhythm is imperative to their music. Sanchez was in charge of the bass drum while Dyer simultaneously tapped on her self made “toe-bourine.” They playfully echoed back and forth, sometimes in unison and other times separately. There wasn’t any dissonance between the two. The music they play is choppy and sporadic, but it all makes sense. Their sound on “Misshaping Introduction” was articulated perfectly, matching that same ambient sound which can be hard to do with such electronic fundamentals. The bass drum hit hard and vibrated through one’s bones while the toe-bourine added an element of chamber music, sounding like heavy chains dropping to the floor from the petit foot of Dyer. The aura of the venue seemed like a dungeon, one that you don’t worry about escaping. Dyers vocals were perfect, simulated through an effects pedal that made her sound like a robotic angel.
The band didn’t address the audience until about four songs into their set. The seemingly shy Dyer sheepishly said hello as the crowd erupted. She stood up from her stool to see her fans. Throughout her performance a docile smile would form on her face, bestowing the gratitude they have to be playing music around the world.
Perhaps one of the best moments came when Dyer broke a string halfway through a song. When they finished, she promptly restrung her instrument but not before a humorous intermission. Dyer paid tribute to opening band, Yussou Benedict, who is from Hudson Bay, where Buke and Gase currently live. Meanwhile, Sanchez casually said, “I think we realized halfway through the tour that we were doing this so we could see Ahleuchatistas play every night.” There was clapping, and then an onslaught of questions, some relevant, some not.
“What do you think about the meteors”?
Sanchez: The one that hit Russia?
Crowd: One hit here!
Dyer: We’re all going to die.
“What’s your favorite city to play”?
Dyer: San Francisco, obviously!
Sanchez: Denver was pretty cool, too.
Dyer: I actually like it here so much I wanted to move here. But Denver was really cool. If I didn’t move here, I’d move to Denver.
The questions were quickly put to rest as Dyer complacently added, “last night I broke my G string.” The crowd smirked at her flirtatious banter. “Thank you for being so patient,” she complimented, and then one more question reigned from the audience. “What’s your favorite joke”? Dyer became giggly, and without hesitation asked- “Have you heard about the magic tractor?” No response. “It drove and turned into a field!” There was subtle laughter, mainly praise for her courage to tell that joke.
The duo raced into another song, bewildering minds once again. Afterwards the soundman interrupted, “five minutes left.” They were baffled, a clear distinction of cultural nightlife between New York and San Francisco. They plunged into three more songs, ending the night in blissful fashion. The duo came out to the crowd, giving hugs and talking to friends and fans. This really showed their modesty, coming from a band that has played around the world with musicians like Lou Reed and Deerhoof, and were critically acclaimed by The National and frequented on NPR. They could have stayed backstage after a long three week U.S. tour, but instead they paid their due diligence to the fans. Throughout the clatter I heard comparisons- “they reminded me of Tegan and Sara,” one girl said. Another guy added, “I heard Crystal Castles, that singer really laid it all out there.” I may have chimed in with Tori Amos (Dyer even kind of looks like her) or Pinback, but no one had a clear definition of this group, which is the best thing a band can do. Leave you with an experience so sublime that there aren’t even words to describe it.