Blind Pilot at Plush, 3/2/12: Review, Photos, Setlist

Categories: Reviews

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Ben Moon
Blind Pilot | Cataldo
Plush
March 2, 2012

The crowd had gathered in Midtown to see Blind Pilot, the charming, affable and endlessly melodic folk band from Portland, Oregon whose star has been steadily rising since 2009. But the concert was as much a rock show as it was a proving ground for Plush, the two-month old venue that was hosting its first major weekend of concerts. Based on overheard chatter, most of the full (but not sold-out) crowd was getting its first taste of the venue and restaurant; people seemed to cotton to the club and its kitchen-sink approach to décor. Aside from a corral-like effect of patrons waiting to get in the venue/restaurant's only entrance, things went smoothly, and Plush had a successful debut for the first-timers. (Confidential to people who bitch about waiting to get a beer at a crowded bar: Patience is a virtue.)

Cataldo, a four-piece from Seattle, began the evening promptly at 9 p.m. with a set of smart, harmony-laden rock & roll. Singer and guitarist Eric Anderson loomed over the mic, looking like a rumpled grad student in a sports coat and Oxford shirt, and his bushy beard was no impediment to the honeyed vocals that buoyed his band's songs. Placed alongside the lead guitar's wisely deployed effects -- octave drops that sounded like a Byrds-y twelve-string, staccato loops that laid down a stuttering pulse -- Anderson's songs landed like more forceful versions of headliner Blind Pilot's catalog or streamlined, less mewling Death Cab for Cutie tunes. Must be a Pacific Northwest thing.

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Christian Schaeffer
Cataldo
Blind Pilot quietly took the stage a little after 10 p.m. and, without much fanfare, kicked into "Keep You Right" from last year's Tucker Martine-produced We are the Tide. Lead singer and guitarist Israel Nebeker has an easy, if reserved, way on the microphone. He's not one for on-stage banter or song introductions, which keeps the focus on his high, clear tenor voice and evocative and oblique lyrics. The crowd, sufficiently warmed up by the opener and adequately juiced from the impressively stocked bar, lapped up Blind Pilot's approach. These are gentle songs at their core, and both Nebeker voice and his band's dynamic ability can push these songs to the rafters. It's a technique that the sextet returned to again and again, and no one tired of it.

Nebeker could probably have made his name as a guy-with-guitar folkie -- the band began as a two-man band, in fact -- but he's smart enough to surround his songs with sympathetic instrumentation that lends different colors and moods. With Nebeker's acoustic guitar and Kati Clabor's turns on banjo, dulcimer and ukulele, rootsy folk makes up the core. On a song like "One Red Thread," performed near the end of the set, those banjo plucks rose above the din. But the wild-card instruments give a jazzy, chamber-pop vibe to many of these tunes. Ian Krist's vibraphone hovered in the ether much of the night, and Dave Jorgensen provided drones with his harmonium and bright trills with his trumpet.

And with that arsenal of instruments and locked-in performers, Blind Pilot laid a steady, loping groove that rarely raised anyone's heart rate but allowed these songs to pierce the skin. The set's mid-section was stacked with the band's top-tier songs: early hit "The Story I Heard" began with a simple, slow shuffle and gradually built into a sing-along. "White Apple," the new LP's standout track, did something similar, using negative space to make the minor-key melody hauntingly sink in. But it was the up-tempo "Half Moon," with its 16th-note high-hats hits and punchy kick drum, that brought the crowd closest to a dance party. The song is a curveball in the band's twenty-ish song catalog, but it's nod towards blended genres and the anthemic quality buried in many of Nebeker's songs.

The proper set closed with a spirited take of "We are the Tide," and the band quickly returned to the stage for one more song. This time, though, the normally reticent Nebeker took to the mic to explain how it was going to go down: "You've been having some interesting conversations all night, and I hope to hear about them after the show. But this song only works if everyone is quiet." It may have been the nicest, most passive-aggressive "shut the fuck up" on record, but it was a necessary admonishment for the all-acoustic, no-microphone encore of "3 Rounds and a Sound" that found the band circled on the dance floor in front of the stage.

But because we're in St. Louis, or because Plush is a crowded, two-level bar made of sound-carrying concrete, or because Blind Pilot is not quite at the stage where they can successfully tell people to shut the fuck up, it took some time to quiet down the crowd. More accurately, it took a fed-up woman on the second floor to holler, "Shut the fuck up, frat boys!" at the offending bros. Which, you know, sort of killed the campfire mood of the whole thing. (No word on who said frat boys were pledging this semester.) Thankfully, Nebeker's plan did, eventually, bear fruit, and the bulk of the crowd joined in a sing-along for the song's remainder.

It was a final warm fuzzy from a band full of them, but the sentiment in Nebeker's songs isn't cheap or cloying, nor are the songs' arrangements trite or manipulative. Accordingly, the bulk of the crowd responded to the evening's show with heartfelt applause and a palpable sense of communion with what Blind Pilot was putting out. And that's always nice to experience.


Location Info

Plush

3224 Locust St., St Louis, MO

Category: Music

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5 comments
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Tim
Tim

If "frat boys" like it, then IT'S OVER!

Maebelle
Maebelle

Yep, Plush is green and 9 weeks young! I have to say we felt a little like a knock kneed teen ager sporting new stiletto heels. Thanks to the not so few (650) the daring and the brave who came thru the doors to experience Blind Pilot on Friday night. Thanks to those who were relentless in their pursuit of beverages, giving the bartenders their first "OMG!!" moments as they realized what VOLUME bar-tending is. Thanks to those who went upstairs to will- call where they could get a drink before standing in line, go to the restroom, play with the giant latch hook rug wall, play ping pong, play shuffle board, text, be warm, get a hug from the "giant hug"... instead of standing outside. Thanks to those who actually did have to stand outside while we checked capacity. AND thanks to the staff at Plush who rocked as a team through their first big night out.Maebelle, Owner of Plush

Cranky
Cranky

While the absence of logical/considerate behavior by many people is sadly pretty normal these days, I'm still perplexed by those who pony up non-trivial cover charges to enter a venue for the apparent purpose of ignoring the performers and diminishing the experience for others.

Shouldn't anything upwards of $7 be sufficient to function as an "asshole filter" - especially in an area with plenty of no-cover options?  If all you want to do is drink and be rowdy - try a corner bar.  Sheesh...   

KalidescopeHippoStraws
KalidescopeHippoStraws

Plush needs to do some soul searching before it takes on another big ticket group in the future.  Forcing people to wait outside without reason just to be sent through a restaurant and around shuffle board courts on the upper level to obtain will call tickets only to be sent back downstairs for admission is simply insane.  Not to mention that the bartenders are in need of some serious training.  The balcony serves as little more than a drunken college party space and provides worse views of the stage than the late St. Louis Arena. (showing my age here)  Before the next big act performs at Plush, I hope it can figure out what it wants to be in order to prevent fistfights between rowdy "frat boys" and over-aggressive indie rock listeners.

Genie Bartender
Genie Bartender

The waiting time for a drink at the main level lobby bar was ridiculous, poor bartending AND 'maybe' understaffed.There appeared to be two bartenders in the lobby but one of them might as well been a "genie", appearing randomly to pour a drink or two maximum and then disappearing again.

As far as the crowd, not being judgmental of anyone who paid the cover to get in but this crowd seemed to have a LOT of what one wouldn't think of as Blind Pilot fans. Not sure if the super proximity to SLU had anything to do with it, but the crowd at times had more of a "Saturday night Washington Avenue" vibe than your typical indie rock show vibe.

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