Monday, June 2, 2008

The Ladybug Transistor at Brooklyn Public Library; May 31, 2008

The Ladybug Transistor, inaugurators of the Brooklyn Public Library’s summer rock festival at Grand Army Plaza (a modest six bands are scheduled to play three Saturdays thus far), were the first band I had ever seen perform in a library. In the past, I had seen Amy Sedaris and David Rees perform readings in the library, and I met former cast members of “Freaks and Geeks” at a convention celebrating the series DVD release party, also hosted by a public library. But no rock bands. I’m not sure if this means I am a complete nerd, or rather a failure as one; judging from the large community turnout for The Ladybug Transistor, I felt somewhat inadequate in my position as a public library patron and enthusiast. Were there always events like this, every day, that I had simply overlooked? Hmm.

The Dweck Center for Contemporary Culture, a cool, comfortable event space in the library’s basement, accommodated the band and its audience, who were both damp and humid, having suffered a barrage of thunderstorms and torrential pouring, followed by a sunny, muggy aftermath. The indoor stage itself could not help but resemble a middle school auditorium, which is actually an acceptable, if not an ideal aesthetic for an indie rock venue (case in point: Union Hall and The Warsaw, who, respectively, have books and a flagpole decorating their stages).

The Ladybug Transistor began their set with old songs: jazzy, slow, and trumpet-heavy, with a mood that can be best described as “adult-contemporary.” I remembered why I had never listened to them much as a college student, favoring other Elephant 6 Collective veterans like Neutral Milk Hotel and The Shins. I had categorized The Ladybug Transistor with lesser-known E6-bands like Marshmallow Coast, The Sunshine Fix, and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, whose names were too stupid even for my standards, and as such, became lesser-known bands for a reason. Their music could be easily mistaken for someone else’s, their sound was derivative and uninspiring. However, The Ladybug Transistor surprised me that Saturday afternoon in the library, with their softness, their distilled folk, country, neo-psychedelia, their ability to remain both subdued and poppy. “Three Days from Now,” off of their 2007 release Can’t Wait Another Day, is a delightful, toe-tapping song, capable of lifting the weariest of heads and hearts. Lead singer Gary Olson, and bassist Julia Rydholm, of The Essex Green, together have a classic harmony, particularly on “Always on the Telephone,” which is not my favorite track off of the album, but a recognizable one. Each song is distinguished by Olson’s smooth baritone, which easily compensates for the occasional string of weak, insipid lyrics. Kyle Forester, who replaced Sasha Bell as keyboardist, almost appeared to have been auditioning for the band, and the drummer, whose name is not even on their MySpace page, is quite probably a temporary replacement for the late San Fadyl. Both were competent musicians, but are by no means integral to the sound. As a collaborative ensemble, the band exchanges instruments nicely, with Rydholm playing the drums and Olson alternating between his trumpet and guitar, demonstrating the band members’ many talents, both as a group and as individual musicians.

The band played for nearly forty-five minutes, a relatively long set for a free show, making short, quiet banter between songs. (At one point, Olson beseeched the audience to help him with his hefty $35 library fine for overdue DVDs.) The Ladybug Transistor ended their set with an obscure cover, a song whose catchy punk rock refrain went something like: “Dad says I gotta get a J-O-B, / I said I’m doin’ okay because / I can read! I can read! / I can read! I can read! I can read!” A fitting anthem for underemployed English majors if ever there was one.

No comments: