by Michael Thomas
A live show can either go one of two ways, in terms of how a bill is booked—it can be a bunch of bands thrown on a bill at random, or, in the case of last night’s EP release show for Kira May at Measure, every band seemed a perfect fit. Of course all three bands (apologies to John Shape, who I’m positive ended the night on a good note, had I seen him) I saw last night are very different, but all succeeded in getting the audience moving in one way or another.
First up was the mysterious entity known as Zoo Owl. When referring to jarring high-profile musical acts, some writers take to calling their music a “reign of terror,” and that phrase perfectly describes the turbulent music of Zoo Owl. His beats vary from aggressive to the type of music you’d hear at a packed night club—you’ll never know how his show is going to go down. A couple of times he even drummed explosively on a floor tom, as if his music wasn’t disorienting enough as it is.
More than anything, his shows are a challenge. He doesn’t want you to feel comfortable. During one of his songs, he sang while standing on the tip of the stage, as though he was trying to pick a fight with someone. This time he actually started his show without the trademark “photoreceptor lenses” but soon had them on in full force, and by the end of the set he was playing in total darkness. There’s a reason Zoo Owl is rising, and it’s because he’s never anything less than thrilling.
Zords, the next act, brought a full-on dance party. The three-piece’s stage looked like a wall of synth, along with a bass guitar, electric guitar and drums sitting behind them. They started off on a high note, all playing on organic instruments, and the bass player quickly brought a funky bass riff to get everybody moving (somebody behind me loudly said “That bass!”) From there on in, the three guys moved slowly from their instruments onto synths, but the change was so gradual that their music never felt like it was suddenly turning on its head for no reason.
Their set would begin to show the strain of Measure’s sound system. In two songs in particular, you could feel the tension coming off the left- and right-hand synth players when their keys barely made any noise. Thankfully, the music was still great even when the keys weren’t entirely there, so the set wasn’t too hampered by the failing sound system.
There would be a long gap between the end of Zords’ set and the beginning of Kira May’s, once again due to sound system difficulties. The audience was patient, however, and the room was still packed by the time she finally got going. Opening with the sounds of “Cut Off Your Shadow” from the now-released Health EP, she quickly proved herself a force to be reckoned with. Listening to the EP, you can try to make guesses as to what constitutes each individual sound—her voice? an instrument?—and live you’ll find all your guesses to be wrong.
Wielding two mics, May had an arsenal of sounds at her disposal, not to mention the guitar/effects backup from Charles Tilden, who throughout the night looked like he had reached some sort of inner peace. With just her voice and pre-programmed beat, May could make her music sound like a guitar was playing even if it wasn’t. By essentially beatboxing into the manipulated mic, May could give off the sound of percussion.
As the set went on, May pulled out a cover song, which featured Tilden on his “beatboxing debut.” Before long she was singing “Ghosts” and ended her set on a rapturous note to rapturous applause.
Technical glitches or not, these three acts came together for a very enjoyable night, especially when the city seemed packed with excellent acts to go and see.