Her Space Holiday @ The Echo, 5/7/09
It is always unnerving as a fan when an artist you like experiments with his genre. We always want them to ride that line between doing something new and different and changing their sound completely. We want something fresh, but also something we can recognize. So when an artist jumps genres, we get nervous. Don't get me wrong, experimentation is essential for any sort of artistic growth to occur. We don't want to hear the same song over and over again or even the same album twice, but at the same time we worry about the unknown. Will it be a successful leap like Nelly Furtado's foray into dance pop? Or will it crash and burn like Garth Brooks' disastrous attempt at reinvention as Chris Gaines?
Her Space Holiday (otherwise known as Marc Bianchi) made the leap with his latest album XOXO, Panda and the New Kid Revival in which he changes his sound from the light synthetic, electronic pop of his previous five albums and ventures into the world of alt-country and folk. Which meant when he took the stage at the Echo a couple weeks ago, he was joined on stage by a full bodied band. There were two drummers, two guitarists, a keyboardist, and a bassist and no synthesizer in sight. A drastic change from a few years ago, when Bianchi did his shows solo with just a laptop and a synthesizer to back him up. It takes a brave musician to completely change his life show and take a step into the unfamiliar. For which we give him full marks for bravery.
Just for reference here is an example of Her Space Holiday's sound on previous albums:
And an example of his current album.
So how did he do? Striding on to the stage in Buddy Holly glasses and plaid, Bianchi looked completely at ease with his new surroundings. There were no flutters of nerves or self-conscious banter with the audience, he was ready to rock out.
Most importantly, Marc Bianchi clearly understands the difference between recording and playing live. The sweet folk tunes that sound great in your living room often do not translate well in a live venue. They tend to drag and quickly become tiresome. People want a live show that they can dance to, not sway politely. Unlike a lot of groups (I'm looking at you, Great Lake Swimmers and Norah Jones) he made no attempts to have his songs sound like they do on the album. It was almost as if Bianchi was covering his own material. The tempo was sped up and the two sets of drums gave the tunes a giant pulse. There was nothing tired or cloying about these songs. Instead of being sweet and twee, Bianchi's voice took on this raspy timbre that is found more often in rock ballads than folk. In short, Her Space Holiday took on yet another metamorphosis on stage, bringing out the rock alter-ego of itself.
Was it the best rock show ever? No, but it was the gutsiest I've seen in awhile. Not only did Bianchi attempt a new album, he tried out a new type of show as well. It is that kind of artistic fearlessness that makes him someone to watch. You never know what he's going to do next, and odds are it's probably going to be pretty good.