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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Alas At VAC

Posted By on Tue, Sep 14, 2010 at 5:39 PM

Alas at The Visual Arts Collective
  • Josh Gross
  • Alas The Visual Arts Collective
A band's first gig rarely goes well. Strings break. Members quit. A spilled beer shorts out the entire sound system. It's all par for the course. But it's not guaranteed to end in catastrophe. Sometimes the only tragedy is a lack of preparedness.

Such was the case with Alas, who debuted at VAC on Monday night.

The two pretty members took the stage nervously, sitting down behind stacks of equipment that obscured them from view. They accidentally cued up the wrong drum loop, then mumbled the first in a series of apologies. It was a bit uncomfortable to watch.

But the reason why it was so uncomfortable was because once they actually got going, the sound was so good. Washed and verbed guitars twinkled out mournful arpeggios over simple, sparse drum loops, giving them a sound similar to The XX, if The XX sang alt-country ballads. Analog synth rounded out the bottom end and perfectly complimented the atmosphere of the music. And on top of that, the songs moved and turned, offering new sounds and directions rather than a strict verse/chorus/verse/chorus format.

But those moves were also the band's biggest shortcoming.

When the guitars, keys or vocals moved, the drums didn't. The simple loops kept going rather than adapting to a more appropriate beat. The rhythms and tempo weren't wrong, the music just felt off in a very subtle way. But subtleties in a sound built on subtleties can stand out something fierce.

Between that and Alas clearly not yet feeling comfortable on-stage, the impression was less of seeing a band, than of the ideas and sessions that become a band. But a really good one.

After the show, their guitar player mentioned that they probably should have started preparing sooner than the night before the show. He's right. They should have. Because then rather than just hinting at the enormous potential of the group, it could have been something truly moving. And in a few months, I have no doubt it will be.

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