It's been a while since we've done a Field Report, and I honestly couldn't think of a better way to get back in the swing of things than with the incredible EP release show for local Ridgewood darlings Freind at Baby's All Right last Thursday. The night was filled with great music, great vibes, and great performances from Freind, Shakai Mondai, Railings, and Operator. We have notes. We have Pics.
"I hate being late for shows." It was a phrase that seemed to be the mantra for the start of my night as I sat in an Uber with my girlfriend and roommate, desperate to make it to Baby's in time to catch Operator. Ever since the release of Puzzlephonics I, the group's first EP, I've been waiting for a chance to see them live—luckily, we made it to the venue just in time for the last two songs of their set. It wasn't the most ideal, but hey, better than nothing.
Operator are an interesting group. What drew me to them, and why I was so eager to see them live, is their ability to combine driving rhythms with lush, interesting synths, sparse guitar, and understated vocals in a way that's cool without seeming remotely pretentious.
In a live setting those elements come across as effortlessly as they do on recordings. For an act that's only been releasing music for a relativity short amount of time, their onstage chemistry is infectious. Start paying attention now—it's going to be exciting watching these guys progress.
The Jennifer Vanilla Dancers
Nicely tucked between each set, we got a couple of truly engaging performances from The Jennifer Vanilla Dancers. The performance group led by artist, musician, and all-around excellent person Becca Kaufman hypnotized the audience with their fluid moves while whispering sweet nothings into our ears. It was definitely an experience, and I certainly wouldn't mind seeing more of it.
This was the first I've heard of Railings, and man, did they make a great first impression. Tight, refreshing, and surprisingly soulful, they had me hooked from the first downbeat. Their blend of driving rhythms and lush (a theme for this show) synths paired well with Operator, but instead of supporting understated vocals the sound fused around Alex Ian Smith's powerful, soulful delivery. The performance was reminiscent of the lighter side of an Ava Luna show, which is saying something.
This was also my first time hearing Shakai Mondai, and wouldn't you know it, not long after entering Baby's I found myself being introduced to her by a friend from college who informed us that we actually went to school together. Queue some platitude about small worlds and whatnot.
Shakai Mondai was actually the last person to perform and her set made for an interesting dynamic after a night full of 4-5 piece bands. At first I even think you could feel it in the crowd. Having a drastic switch to such an intimate performance seemed to be jarring to some at first, but that quickly went away. Mondai was quickly took over the stage making it her space and emanated an aura that seemed to demand attention.
I think it only took me one solid listen through Freind's new EP Lemon to fall in love with it. Quickly after that, I marked their release show on my calendar and began the countdown to what I knew would be an amazing night of music.
Freind, like many of our favorite bands, have a sound that seems to borrow from so many different influences that coming up with a solid genre definition seems counterproductive at best. What they excel at is creating a sound that's very organized, but always seems as if it's on the verge of collapse. That, in addition to their steady shift in genre references, makes for a performance that comes across as ever-changing while still being cohesive.
They're great live, and are clearly a band that's well practiced—or at least one that communicates extremely well among themselves and with their audience. Freind are solid, very impressive performers, especially given that this is their first release. I honestly can't wait to hear more.