You know about WBAR, right? I mean, I know that Barnard College is way the hell up on the west side and not really as convenient as, say, Mercury or Cakeshop, but their student radio station has a track record of excellent, free or virtually free ($3), and often criminally under-attended concerts. Looking around at the WBAR Fall Concert, tucked away in the sub-level of next door Columbia’s student union, I had a distinct impression that the attendees were mostly the station’s own DJs, with, perhaps, some other Columbia and Barnard students thrown in for good measure. It probably didn’t help that some sort of last-minute cross-campus move was effected (I don’t think OhMyRockness.com ever even got the memo), but still, people, people, No Age. Just last week they packed Other Music completely to capacity.
Double Dagger was opening. The up-and-coming Baltimore designers-turned-post-punk-rockers actually run a spare bass and drums setup much like No Age’s, just with a third member handling vocal duties and running-around-in-the-crowd duties, and with much more direct, propulsive song-structures. While they’ve yet to develop a really unique angle of their own, Double Dagger’s live sound is immediate and visceral, just shy of full-on fist-pumping anthems.
No Age, of course, do have a clear and unique angle, dissecting pop song structure and paring it down to skeletal essentials. Live, they use backing loops, not of the usual Japanther-style supplementary melodies or rhythm, but of dim static washes and blearily fuzzed-out tidal motions. From these primordial oceans repeated riffs and rhythms gradually coalesce, rising up from the depths and taking on color and contours until at last they breach, perfectly crafted post-punk hooks shining in the surface sunlight, but only for a moment, just long enough to be riveting, like Loch Ness, before they sink away out of sight again, leaving you still fumbling with your camera. Or at least that’s how they’re supposed to go. And they did, for the most part, besides an unfortunate, momentum-robbing unplugging at the critical dramatic moment of flagship song “Everybody’s Down” (“first thing after the show, I’m buying a longer guitar cord”). The song sounded like it went off a little better at the Other Music show, but of course I couldn’t actually see any of that through the crowd. At the WBAR performance, fortunately, we could catch every detail, from opening murmurs to everybody-storm-the-stage finale.