The other night, at the Miami Beach Fillmore Auditorium, the New York City-based indie rock band Grizzly Bear finally made it to Miami. The five-piece band brought its captivating, restless, yet refined, rock sound to an eager audience of young and more stately hipsters alike. Singer, multi-instrumentalist and founder Ed Droste led the band center stage but mostly in the shadows against a wall of alternately glowing jellyfish. “I really hope we don’t wait as long to come back again,” Droste said to the warm audience. The enthusiasm from the crowd sounded much grander than the half-at-capacity venue, which holds 1600 max. Here’s one of several moments where Droste expressed his gratitude for to the welcome Miami gave the band:
Droste switched between Omnichord and electric guitar as his preferred instrument. Since he began the project in his bedroom as a solo artist, Grizzly Bear has become a democratic affair and guitarist Daniel Rossen shared as much in lead vocals as the band’s founder. Also singing, bassist Chris Taylor, who occasionally put down the bass to play clarinet, tenor sax or flute. Rounding out the crew was Chris Bear on drums and keyboardist Aaron Arntz, who hid behind a wall of various synthesizers almost as tall as he.
It made for an intriguing mix of instruments, explored not for gimmick but to serve these unassuming yet brilliant songs. “A Simple Answer” had Rossen juggling keyboard and guitar work. Comments on the complexity of these songs overheard in the crowd included Pink Floyd-esque. Yet, any left turns in the music never broke a well-grounded groove. There was something comforting about watching these young musicians gel over real instruments.
Most dynamic throughout the night were the members’ varied voices, from solo to harmonic. Droste provided more earthy if still breathy vocals while Rossen and Taylor’s voices brought a more angelic element to the mix with their own crystalline tenors and falsettos. “Gun-Shy” offers a nice demonstration of Droste and Rossen trading off on vocals. My battery on the camera died before the song came to its end:
There was only one occasion where the band fell out of sync. Rossen seemed to jump ahead on the keyboard riff of “Two Weeks” on a couple of occasions, but otherwise the set went perfectly. Droste seemed chatty, asking how the Heat game was going before the band quietly sequed into “Shift,” a surprise from the moody but gorgeous debut album Horn of Plenty. Here’s the moment caught on video I uploaded to YouTube and the full song:
That marked a quiet moment in the set, but “What’s Wrong” opened with Taylor on tenor sax, and the song had a new-found, overall booming quality missing from the record. The band closed with a downright majestic “Sun In Your Eyes,” which Droste set up as the last song of the night to a chorus of “Awe!” from the audience. Rossen tried to soften the blow by noting, “It’s kind of long and plodding and boring.” Of course, it was anything but. The band patiently played with the dynamic of the song, cooing their beautiful lyrics before the incandescent crescendos of the instruments.
Even with songs turned boisterous, the reaction from the audience was always jubilant. The band only offered one song for the encore, an acoustic version of “All We Ask.” When Droste sang “Wasting time with you some,” someone in the crowd yelled back, “Noooo!” Clearly there have been people in this city longing for a Grizzly Bear appearance. Droste knew it. When the band came on at around 9:45 p.m. his first words were, “Miami! I don’t know what took us so long to get here,” after all.
The opening act, Majical Cloudz, seemed to warm up the crowd nicely, though they felt a bit too minimalist and overly literal in the lyric department to amuse on a deeper level, unlike the headline act. A duo composed of vocalist Devon Welsh and musician Matthew Otto, Welsh also seemed chatty, concerned about the houselights and how intimidating the large room felt. “We’re tiny-room people so big rooms kinda freak us out. These candelabras and stuff remind me of the Titanic.” Their shtick was spare and confessional. These were sparse songs with Otto playing simple repetitive notes and creating an atmospheric drone with his electronic equipment. Fittingly, Otto sang lyrics as literal as “Listen to this song/This is how I feel…”
The music was so spare it gave little to the audience members to feed off. All they could do was stand there. These songs were so spare that they left no room in the music to even sway to. But it’s not like Welsh was not aware of this. Before the band’s last song, he even said, “OK, we’re gonna end by— for a change— playing a slow, sad song .” A Grizzly Bear audience should be expected to have patience, and these fans proved themselves as such, giving Majical Cloudz warm applause between attentive listens. Droste even complimented the crowd on its behavior during the opening band’s set, who he clearly has affection for … all the more reason for GB to pay Miami back with a return visit.
Speak in Rounds
A Simple Answer
While You Wait for the Others
Sun in Your Eyes
All We Ask (acoustic)
The tour continues in the U.S. through August. Visit Grizzly Bear’s website for all the tour dates.
Finally some more images from the night. All photos were taken by Ana Morgenstern. We were nestled in the balcony with drink service: