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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘South by South Brandeis’ openers erupt with unique flair

Published: November 16, 2012
Section: Arts, Etc.

Punk Rock & Roll Club brought their cleverly-titled “South By South Brandeis” to Chum’s last weekend, featuring the highly anticipated bands “Callers” and “Delicate Steve” to kick off the show last Friday. Despite issues with feedback and leveling, Callers played a decent set. The band, which consists of a trio of musicians that each bring varied, impressive talents to the collective, has been making music since 2008. Ryan Seaton, the guitarist, also doubles as the band’s bass player with the addition of bass string to his guitar. He performs feats of incredible dexterity to play both at once. Drummer Don Godwin doesn’t mess around, either; though his setup is minimal, he plays fluidly, keeping himself free of the trappings of traditional drummers. Sara Lucas’ voice is beautiful and has a presence that belies its tone. These ingredients all combine into a wonderful light, pop stew.

The band has grown considerably since its folkish debut album, branching out with two other albums into brighter tones and strange syncopations reminiscent of Dirty Projectors or a very upbeat Portishead. The crowd certainly got into their music. Several audience members were dancing with gusto and the musicians bantered well, telling humorous stories about life in Brooklyn and the sorry state of their brightly-colored touring van, now incapacitated because of Hurricane Sandy. At one point, Delicate Steve got onstage to perform a song he co-wrote with them, to the enjoyment of the crowd. Callers made for a wonderful opening to the crazy stylings of Delicate Steve.

Steve Marion, however, is far from delicate. He is a natural guitarist and showman and the whole band appears to be close-knit, having lived in a ramshackle house in Warwick, New York, in addition to chumming around Brooklyn with various indie musicians. But Steve wasn’t always appreciated in his time: his earlier band, Baller Banks, disbanded after a bad experience with Warner Bros. Records. Afterward, Steve was turned off to making music for anyone but himself. Following a road trip across the U.S. in 2009, he started making melodies in his bedroom studio in New Jersey and thus Delicate Steve was brought into being.

Since then, Delicate Steve has opened for both Yeasayer and tUnE-yArDs, attracted an indie record label and put out three joyous albums. The entire biography of the five-man rock outfit was fabricated by Chuck Klosterman in an attempt to get the band some notoriety without necessarily describing their sound. But what a sound it is; Delicate Steve produces a garish and aggressive flavor of electro-rock that results in some of the most danceable tunes around.

There is a certain amount of quirk to the band, indicated in part by Klosterman’s irreverent, near-inscrutable bio and the the band’s demeanor. During the Chum’s show, Steve brought a couple onstage to dance to “Two Lovers” and asked to see people’s cell phones when he saw them texting, only to put the phone somewhere else onstage and continue playing. At one point, paradoxically, Steve wouldn’t start playing until the entire coffeehouse was silent, presumably as an ironic counteraction to some bands’ desire to get as much noise out of the crowd as possible.

Steve and his cohorts put as much zeal into playing with the crowd as they do in making excellent music. Mike Duncan, the drummer, pulled off some ludicrous maneuvers on his kit: at one point alternating the tempo of one hand so the resulting beats diverged and recombined. Mickey Sanchez, the keyboardist, creates excellent effects that make Marion’s already-impressive guitar playing truly extraordinary.

Rob Scheuerman and Adam Pumilla create fantastic harmonies with guitar and bass, respectively. Combined, Delicate Steve presented a stage and a band full of spastic energy—so much so, in fact, that Steve broke two guitar strings during the performance, which he of course took in stride, japing with the audience during repairs. Congratulations are certainly in order to both bands for a phenomenal job kicking-off the club’s “South By South Brandeis” series of shows.