Finicky Ears

The Dutchess and The Duke @ Cross Cultural Center – 11/13/09, Irvine, CA

Posted in Live Reviews by finickyears on November 15, 2009

This is the first cool thing I have ever heard of happening in Irvine. UCI apparently has a group of people known as Acrobatics Everyday who have been throwing legitimate indie shows for a couple years now, so far off the radar that on Friday (the 13!) I felt like 1/3 of the audience were passerbys who heard the lovely harmonies coming from the small hall. All in all, only about 40 people turned out for this show, but those who were cool enough to know that these things even went on were treated to a relaxed and intimate showcase of two singers who are consistently better than the sum of their parts.

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I had previously seen The Dutchess and The Duke at The Echo as the opening band for Fleet Foxes (to digress, that was Fleet Foxes first full tour and TD&TD hadn’t even released their debut yet: INCREDIBLE show!). After that show, it took me nearly a year to track down their album. Then, a couple weeks ago, I decided to order the debut LP on vinyl, but was shipped their new album, Sunset/Sunrise, by mistake. Normally, I would have sent it back promptly, but I was so excited to hear this new record that I kept it. That being said, I also made the decision to not listen to the new record until after I had seen them perform. There is something profoundly special about hearing songs for the first time at a show. Songs like “Phantom Limb” by The Shins and “The General Specific” by Band of Horses will always be tied to the live performances at which I was introduced to them.

Full disclosure: I forgot to bring my camera. So, it was some small consolation that the classroom/hall was not lit whatsoever, except for one intensely bright light that the band refused to have shine on them. It was dark enough that you wouldn’t recognize the band if you saw them smoking outside after the show. In fact, I was pretty sure “The Duke”, Jesse Lortz, was working the merchandise booth after show, but I had enough doubt to not say anything to him.

The band opened with “Back to Me” from their first record (the disadvantage of me not listening to the album prior to the show is that my reporting of the new material is going to be a little shoddy) and then played three more in a row from the debut record, including “Out of Time” and “Reservoir Park”. The biggest complement I can pay to this group is to note the power that comes when the two sing together. It was chill-inducing on numerous occasions. And, this is a welcome change from the first time I saw them, when they could have been called (The Dutchess) and The Duke, with Kimberley Morrison seeming to take more of a backup role. The least successful parts of the show were when one singer would take over lead vocals by themselves, in particular when Morrison sang solo for one of the new album tracks.

Then there’s “I Am Just a Ghost.”

(Here’s is a video someone took of “I Am Just a Ghost” from the P4k festival) 

With bands of little commercial success, it is hard to gauge which songs are likely to be played at a show. So, when TD&TD announced that they had three songs left to play, I resorted to casually suggesting (or shouting for) “I Am Just A Ghost” at a song break. I doubt I made the difference, but they played it as their second to last song and completely killed it. The verses were sung at a near whisper and as the song built towards its dramatic conclusion, a trance seemed to engulf the audience. The song was overwhelming in all the good ways; managing to be haunting, beautiful, tragic and delicate at the same time. Out of respect for the track (and not at all having to do with the few beers I had before the show), I hit the bathroom halfway through the closer – the fun “Armageddon Song.”

One last note: The band seemed dead-set on going to a college after-party, asking about it numerous times throughout the night. I felt bad for them, figuring they had no idea where they were. But I hope that some of the hip youngsters at the show were able to treat them to a good time.

Enjoy a video of “Out of Time” from some random show!

Visit The Dutchess and The Duke Here!

Buy Albums by The Dutchess and The Duke Here!

Visit Acrobatics Everyday Here!

Top photo by Andrew Waits.

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