There’s no denying that Gustaf is one of the best live bands in Brooklyn (or anywhere really), but since they have been getting a lot of very well deserved attention so they’ve been touring a lot (and gotten to open for some pretty big artists along the way) and thus haven’t played as many hometown shows. But as luck would have it, they announced a pair of homecoming shows at The Broadway to wrap up their most recent US tour, the first of which was on my birthday, and I knew immediately what my party plans were.
I’d last seen them open for IDLES at Terminal 5 (pics from night one here, night two here) and it was a great show, but I think the very best way to experience a band like Gustaf is to be up close and personal in a small room to really get every ounce of their infectious and relentless energy radiating at you. The packed crowd definitely agreed, sending back just as much energy and jumping joyfully throughout the entire set, reacting viscerally song after song. In particular the crowd really got moving and the entire floor bounced during “Book,” which is a standout track on their album Audio Drag For Ego Slobs and one of my favorites.
If the band was road weary at all from their busy schedule, they didn’t show it in the slightest. As with all of their shows, it seemed like at any moment things could erupt and explode, yet it never quite reached the boiling point—this is one of the things I love most about them in fact. They go right to the edge of control and tantalizingly push the line of melting down without ever actually doing so, pushing hard and pulling things back on a dime. Combining the frenzy of comically distorted backing vocals coupled with clean sprechgesang-ish lead vocals, coffee can percussion, horns and rubber chickens, and an air tight rhythm section paired with precise, clipped guitar lines makes for a fantastic and musically creative outfit that really has no current equal. But it is that anticipation of the coming calamity that makes for the most exciting part of the equation and why their live shows are so incredible.
Spitfire grunge-rocker-meets-pop-superstar, Lola Pistola, opened the show and she shredded hard with killer dance moves to match, setting the high energy pace for the evening. She also had drummer Carlo Minchillo of the Brooklyn Drum Collective sitting in for this show which was an extra treat. Carlos Truly (who co-produced Gustaf’s album) hit the middle spot with a set that brought in elements of pop, electro, jazz and lounge for a unique fusion of sounds. Playing guitar for the set, Truly claimed he “didn’t know what he was doing” and that he doesn’t usually play guitar in the band, but he could have fooled me, he sounded great and brought a lot of life to his playing. They were a fun link from the hard rocking of Lola Pistola to the potent controlled chaos of Gustaf.
I can’t think of a better birthday gift than getting to rock out in the weirdly wonderful low brow, high concept world of art punk Gustaf has created. And I’m very glad I caught them before they once again jet out of Brooklyn and on to their next tour. Happy Birthday to me indeed!
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)