About two weeks ago, the last few sporadic days of rainfall came to a halt — the day Phoenix would welcome a refreshing change of pace. Not in terms of weather, but music. Baths paid Downtown Phoenix’s Crescent Ballroom a visit — surprisingly not headlining, but opening up for Why?
It was just a year ago when my Baths listening days began and picked up day after day on my light rail commute to and from work. Baths‘ album “Cerulean,” released June 2010, was the moving, therapeutic soundtrack to my winter of 2011. It had become a habit to instinctively press repeat, indulging in Will Wiesenfeld’s (Baths) falsetto vocals, layered over his carefully assembled beats, complete with just a hint of noise lingering beneath, adding depth for a more rich, full-bodied sound. And I was more than ready to experience the album live.
Little did I know that I would be rubbing elbows with such a diverse crowd during my first live encounter with the adorably geeky techno musician. This was the first 18+ show I had ever attended at Crescent; and to be honest, I had no idea the line-up, consisting of the aforementioned bands and Fol Chen, would attract such a young crowd.
Before Baths took the stage, though, I was eager to watch the bizarre, dark-pop-experimental foursome from California, Fol Chen. I listened to a few tracks prior to the show and was genuinely interested to watch them in action. Why?
Watching them live, I quickly realized what made their sound so unique. It was so disjointed — almost as if they had rummaged through a junkyard of discarded samples, carefully taking the seemingly superfluous sounds and upcycling them into a whimsical, yet well-crafted set.
And then I read their bio: “Fol Chen has created a signature sound from field recordings and an electronic junk drawer, building compound beats and sending warped vocal transmissions.” Yep, that explains it pretty well.
About 10 to 15 minutes and one Moscow Mule later, Baths took the stage, engaging the audience in not only his tranquilizing, yet energetic set, but also his quirky banter. At the end of his introduction, a succession of three tracks from “Cerulean,” I knew I wasn’t the only one in that room who had undergone a Baths binge at one point. The crowd became a chorus, reciting lyrics of cool days, elephants and giraffes. However, it was his parting words, from one of his new tracks of his upcoming album “Obsidian,” that stuck with me: “Is it a matter of love, or is it just my face?” This proved to be one of the more powerful closers I had witnessed; he had performed the song with such intensity. Now I’m more eager than ever to listen to “Obsidian” in its entirety.
And then came Why? To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t quite get into the folk/indie/new wave band from Ohio. But I can’t say the same about the Why? fans that night. They loved every minute of it.
Aside from seeing Geographer earlier in the year at Rhythm Room, Baths quickly ranked as one of the top memorable, moving performances I’d seen. And I can’t wait for “Obsidian” to drop on May 28. I’ve been waiting for a new album to listen to on repeat — and I think this just may be it.