Beirut and WOOM play The Music Hall of Williamsburg

With his rotary valve flugelhorn (no, it's not a trumpet!) slung jauntily over his shoulder, Beirut frontman Zach Condon is a devil-may-care showman. (Photos copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

If you felt old at last night’s Beirut show at The Music Hall of Williamsburg, there was a reason. Elise, a fan in the crowd at my side pointed this out, saying that she felt like the oldest person in the room, even though she appeared barely older than the band’s 24-year-old frontman Zach Condon.

The boys of Beirut.

The explanation is simple: The first night of the two-night, sold-out stand at Beirut’s home venue was essentially designated youth night. Beirut’s record label, BaDaBing, arranged for Monday night’s show as an 18-and-older gig and a block of tickets was sold at the box office only for the bargain price of $9.99 to give young fans a chance to see what one critic has dubbed “the best indie rock band of the 19th century.”

BaDaBing head Ben Goldberg, explains:

Hey everyone, the first show on July 5th is an 18+ show, the second is 21+. We wanted to make sure all those of you without credit cards of your own or superspeed internet connections are able to potentially get tickets, hence why the $9.99 is only available at the box office and won’t carry any handling fees.

Looking forward to seeing all you pale skins’ post-Independence day sunburns!

–ba da ben

Last night’s show was simply amazing. Beirut played a solid 90-minute set, kicking things off with “Elephant Gun” and romping through a sing-along set of all the band’s best-loved songs. It seemed far too short, but satisfying all the same. (And selling out @MusicHallofWB for two nights in a row seems like quite an accomplishment for a band that hasn’t released a proper album since 2007 and probably won’t have the next one ready until Spring 2011!)

Zach exudes a charm and confidence that belies his age. He appears comfortable onstage and has the swagger of a latter-day Sinatra. He’s not so much electrifying as he is charming and seductive. His warm style and the band’s tightness won a lot of love from the audience.

If I had ever imagined that flugelhorn and trumpet would someday become this hip, I might have thought twice about giving up playing brass after high school. Zach and his bandmates are among a number of influential young musicians who have managed to make the rock world safe for old-school instruments — French horn, trumpet, flugelhorn, accordion, ukulele and trombone.

We didn’t shoot any video last night, but lots of other concertgoers had video cameras. Here’s one of “The Penalty” posted by a fan known on Twitter as @projectnrm. The sound quality doesn’t really do the performance justice, but no matter, the enthusiasm is there:

WOOM is always in motion. The band's scrappy, bare-knuckled sound is irresistible.

Openers WOOM, a silly but joyous husband-and-wife band, charmed the crowd with a nice set of DIY beats coupled with Sara Magenheimer‘s vocals and Eben Portnoy‘s scratchy guitar riffs.

In addition to their usual repertoire, they debuted their version of Elizabeth Cotten‘s folk tune “Freight Train” last night. Though it had some rough edges, it was an intelligent and entertaining deconstruction of a song that’s been covered by many artists over the years, including Joan Baez, the Grateful Dead and even Laura Veirs, with the highly recognizable chorus: “When I die, Lord, bury me deep/Way down on old Chestnut Street/So I can hear old No. 9/As she goes rolling by.”

WOOM’s first full-length album, Muu’s Way, is out today on BaDaBing. It’s available from Amazon.com and other music outlets.

Click through to the jump for more photos from last night’s show.

Zach Condon plays the ukulele.

Beirut's drummer Nick Petree is a joy to watch.

Kelly Pratt is no slouch on brass.

Keyboard player Paul Collins.

Perrin Cloutier's accordion contributes mightily to Beirut's sound.

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One response to “Beirut and WOOM play The Music Hall of Williamsburg

  1. Thank god. I thought Beirut had disappeared off the face of the earth. I was happily proven wrong.

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