Real Estate at Mass MoCA (8/9/2012)

10 Aug

Real Estate played to a near full house last night at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, familiar to the New England art world as Mass MoCA. The museum’s Hunter Center is a sparse yet intimate venue that is set up less like a traditional theater and more like a grade-school assembly room.  Two wings of neatly spaced folding chairs were situated on each side of the theater, though it was clear that only a third of the audience would remain in their seats when Real Estate took the stage.

The usual quartet of singer Martin Courtney IV, guitarist Matt Mondanile, bassist Alex Bleeker and drummer Etienne Duguay were joined by an unknown keyboardist which rounded out the sound nicely.  As the crowd converged at the foot of the stage with a casual shuffle the band opened with a gorgeous rendition of “Municipality” off of last year’s Days.  After the song Courtney quietly thanked the audience for their applause before plunging into “Easy.”  This was to be a repeat formula for the remainder of the show: song, applause, quiet thank you, song, sprinkled infrequently with some polite soundboard adjustment requests from Bleeker.  The band sounded great but there was very little engagement with the crowd.  It wasn’t that they seemed unappreciative in the least but rather a bit nervous.  They looked like a college band that have not yet realized their popularity.

Despite the lack of stage-play in between songs the band played all but one of the songs from their sophomore release and nailed them.  A set which focused on the second album was to be expected considering its 2011 release but it was certainly nice to hear the jangly “Beach Comber” along with a handful of other songs from their self-titled debut.  What was most surprising is that the guys weren’t shy about getting a little noisy.  A number of the songs were extended with noodling jams and playful drumming that made one feel like they were watching a young band first start to gel in some parent’s basement.  It was those moments where the band seemed the most comfortable.

Real Estate fittingly closed their set with the last track on Days, “All the Same.”  Running the better part of ten minutes, the band gradually slowed the tempo to a tight crawl.  As the song neared its end, time seemed to slow along with it.  The band returned to the stage for a brief encore and Mondanile and Courtney fiddled with their amplifiers.  Mondanile told Courtney, “It’s going to be loud,” to which Courtney replied, “I like it loud.”  Real Estate played “Black Lake” before dropping their equipment and waving goodbye to a partially deafened but happy crowd.

After the set Courtney moved to the merch table for autographs and Bleeker amiably made conversation with those fans who hung around.  Upon closer inspection, Courtney was sporting a Feelies t-shirt underneath a quirky, short-sleeved button-up.  The Feelies are a band that played at Mass MoCA just last year and a band whose sound and aesthetic is exemplified in Real Estate.  Slightly nerdy college rockers who appreciate warm suburbanity and write great pop songs about it.

The Setlist

1.  “Municipality”

2.  “Easy”

3.  “Kinder Blumen”

4.  “Green Aisles”

5.  “Fake Blues”

6.  “Out of Tune”

7.  “Younger Than Yesterday”

8.  (Unknown)

9.  “It’s Real”

10.  “Wonder Years”

11.  “Suburban Dogs”

12.  “Atlantic City”

13.  “Beach Comber”

14.  “All the Same”

Encore

15.  “Black Lake”

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