One month in San Francisco, one Indio and all the shows to see. We have Bandwagon Philippines writer Mariah Reodica out in the Golden Gate City, writing to us about gigs on the other side of the planet. Here's the first of the series.
Though their songs seem deceptively simple at first, Real Estate is one of the tightest guitar-based bands to have emerged in the last five years. They’re popular amongst Manila’s musicians for songs such as as 'It’s Real' and 'Crimes' where Matt Mondanile’s melodic guitar lines circle around Martin Courtney’s rhythmic, jangly arpeggios, while those with a keen eye for rhythm have a lot to pay attention to with the unpredictable yet rock-solid bass and drums. The major difference is the departure of their original guitarist Mondanile, who quit Real Estate to focus on his other project, Ducktails. Taking his place is Julian Lynch, who is proving to be quite the contender.
This is the last show of their three-day residency at The Chapel, a beautiful, intimate venue with high arched ceilings in the heart of San Francisco. I stood in the front, where the smell of grass wafted in my direction occasionally. I was in California, alright.
Their 2011 album Days is full of blissful pop tunes meandering around the suburbia of New Jersey, occasionally employing an odd time-signature here and there, was a hard feat to beat. However, their latest album, Atlas, shed their reverbed-out lo-fi in favor of pristine, lucid production that brimmed with confidence and self-assuredness that comes with rigorous touring.
When it comes to their live performances, their delicate guitar interplay is best showcased in their slowest songs. Another strength of Real Estate is their knack of finding a singular riff that can go on for minutes in a hypnotic daze. The sublimely psychedelic outro of 'The Bend' which closed their main set, was gloriously mesmerizing. Unfortunately, they didn’t play a personal favorite of mine that employs the same device, 'All the Same'. Probably because it was 10 minutes long.
Drummer Jackson Pollis hits harder than I’d have guessed on recordings, and he displays incredible control of dynamics and tempo. All the unexpected drum fills up his sleeve give a twist to their most popular of songs such as Had to Hear. He also incorporates drum machines into a couple of their songs while adding flourishes with mallets; it’s a pleasant surprise to see live.
The setlist avoided former guitarist Matt Mondanile’s songs such as 'April’s Song', but their new guitarist Julian is a curveball. He’s volatile and unpredictable, drowned in delay and reverb. It’s somewhat jarring after Mondanile’s clarity on Atlas, but their new songs show a promising direction for their next album, which they just finished tracking. They ended the set with the new song 'Circus', where Julian went all out with the fuzz and feedback, broken strings dangling off his guitar, channeling anti-guitar heroes like Nels Cline. It was chaos, Real Estate-style.
Watch Real Estate Live at The Chapel, San Francisco with 'Circus':
Vocalist Martin Courtney’s onstage presence is introverted and shy; it’s bassist Alex Bleeker who’s the friendliest, speaking in between songs most of the time. He even goes out of the way to thank the kids who made their way out on a school night. They’re more than just a summer-anthem band that a lot of blurbs online make them out to be. They’re a tight unit of musicians playing a diverse range of songs with skill, precision, and beauty. Real Estate’s richly-recorded albums and jigsaw puzzle arrangements have rewarded repeated listens over the years, and it was a great pleasure to hear it all live at last.
Real Estate’s setlist
2 part (new song)
Sleeze (new song)
Darling (new song)
43 Beacon (new song)
Out of Tune
Harpsichord (new song)
Waltz (new song)
Had to Hear
Dec 7 (new song)
Circus (new song)
Listen to Real Estate on iTunes, Spotify and Deezer.