Victoria Ruiz of Downtown Boys is not mild-mannered. We don’t want her to be. The frontwoman of Providence, Rhode Island’s politico-punk band assured us there’s always strength in numbers on a heat-adhesive Friday night at St. Vitus.
Ruiz stalked back and forth on the stage, carrying a certain strength and ignition that’s flawlessly mirrored by the band. In a time when it seems half a band’s audience is phones, the sold-out crowd was too busy jerking their bodies to stop for a photo opp.
Counting down with fans in a sax-accompanied staccato, Ruiz tells us all to “Get your head above water and look at the North Star,” a punishingly attractive cry that soothes us in a time of crippling mistrust. After an hour-plus set, they ended, and we all made a promise that night: If we have each other, we’ll never get eaten alive.
Moments before Aldous Harding took the stage in Brooklyn on Thursday night, a friend told me, “It’s challenging, but rewarding.” That was her review of Harding’s new album for 4AD, Party. Apparently, word of the album’s rewards had gotten around, with the sold-out audience packed into the pews of Greenpoint’s Park Church Co-op.
At its core, Party is a folk album that implausibly balances dark, gothic touches with the panache of a cabaret singer. Harding juggles a similar balance in her live show, with rousing effects—a recent live performance on ‘Later… with Jools Holland’ prompted Noisey to ask, “Did Aldous Harding Just Have Her Future Islands Moment?”
Dressed in all white, she took the stage and began softly finger-picking her way through quieter Party cuts “Swell Does The Skull” and “I’m So Sorry.” These songs were beautifully, if delicately, rendered, but this wasn’t challenging. It was downright pretty.
Three songs in, Harding changed her tune. Near the end of the pastoral “Elation,” her voice shifted from a breathy coo to a deep, full-bodied bellow—literally stirring the audience and jerking several heads toward the stage. This was the performer that the sold-out audience had come for.
Album highlights “Imagining My Man” and “Party” further showcased Harding’s range of vocals, as well as her stage theatrics: one minute, her eyes were rolling back in her skull, and the next, they were wide-eyed and fixed on the audience. Harding shined brightest when she could ham it up, embodying all the schmaltz and vibrato of a lounge singer during “What If Birds Aren’t Singing They’re Screaming” and Paul McCartney cover “Single Pigeon.”
After her last song, Harding left the stage with about half the audience standing in ovation, before returning for an encore performance of Party’s stirring single, “Horizon.” With only prodding piano chords as accompaniment, Harding commanded the stage, her voice filled the vaulted church ceilings. As she seamlessly switched between a laser-precise nasal and a resonant howl, it became clear Harding had delivered one of the most stunning vocal performances of the weekend. She again exited the stage, but this time, the entire audience was standing.
Your run-of-the-mill Northsider won’t stray too far from the general McCarren Park vicinity during the festival weekend, but if they did decide to make the trek over to The Well for The Wild Honey Pie’s “The Beehive” party on Friday night, it would’ve been well worth the voyage. The multi-stage event included cupcakes, bubble machines, twinkling lights and DIY paint swatch decorations that eased audiences into the perfect June night. With a wide range of music from local bands like Pavo Pavo, Frances Cone, Salt Cathedral, WILSEN, Monogold, The Wild Honey Pie gave us all a reason to ditch the summer pool party for a backyard block party.
Noteworthy from the showcase was The Dig, who are currently touring behind their latest album, Bloodshot Tokyo. Dressed like Corey Feldman in The Lost Boys, singers Emile Mosseri and David Baldwin led the crowd through a setlist consisting of hacky-sack instrument swaps and the enduring energy of an unchaperoned 80s prom party. Once drummer Mark Demiglio kicked off his shoes after the show, we knew it was time to lace up our own for the rest of the weekend.
Downtown Boys photos by Zane Roessell
Aldous Harding photos from Saturday’s Baby’s All Right Show by Cole Giordano