tUnE-yArDs Roll to a Different Sound

Main photo via Tune-Yards’ Facebook

Tune-Yards, which is actually Merrill Garbus, an outgoing, vivacious women who sings and plays drums, ukulele, and synth, rolled into New York to play two sold out shows on a Sunday and Monday night in the summer—no easy feat when everyone is away or doing other things. Her partner, bass player Nate Brenner also plays synth and co-writes some of the extremely quirky, pretty original material. In this version of their touring group, they enlisted a female drummer and two female backup singer/dancers. So basically, this is a band with two drummers, a bass player, and four singers who sing in harmony and unison, dance up a storm, and make a whole lot of rhythm rivaling an African drum circle. All that was missing was the campfire.

This is, yet another, act that costumes up, but only in the face and body painting mode. Unlike Goat, who played here recently in head-to-toe disguise, you can sort of see what this group looks like. The stage set is cool, with the two drum sets and big hanging eyes watching us, making sure we enjoy ourselves. Few people seemed to be having any problem doing that.

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Merrill Garbus naturally commands attention, and she enlisted the enthusiastic crowd in frequent call and response. When she pulled out the ukulele, what seemed like a gimmick somehow worked. Apparently, even a ukulele when plugged into a distortion, reverb, and delay, can sound dynamic. Does any one remember Tiny Tim? This is your father’s Hawaiian island music, this is super modern weirdness, accented by Merrill’s strange yelp-like singing, the makeup, the eyeballs stage set, the backup singers, and the no guitars.

With Tune-Yards, it’s all beat; looped, driving, accented and different. This is another act that fits in a lot of genres, including World, Indie Pop, Lo-Fi, Folk, Afrobeat, Experimental, R+B, and indie electronic. Whew! Try saying that fast. When all is said and done though, Tune-Yards is simultaneously super entertaining, and with everything they throw at you, exhausting. 

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