Monday, March 17, 2014

Concert Report: A Dead Winter Night's Steam/ Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands

So if you read my quick post last Thursday, you know I went to Houston to vend at a concert/steampunk event called A Dead Winter Night's Steam.  It was organized by my friend Addisyn Madd as a steampunk concert night with vendors.

Myself and my husband. I'm proud of putting together
 an entirely new outfit from pieces I already had.
I'll just talk briefly about the event itself.  Unfortunately, there was very low attendance.  Only a handful of people showed up in any kind of steampunk dress.  I assume this is because it was held on a Thurday night while SXSW was going on in Austin, All-Con was happening in Dallas, and Houstonians were busy with Anime Matsuri.  Unfortunately, although the venue's other areas were packed with people, very few of them were willing to pay the $5 cover to stay upstairs.  (Don't get me started on the cheapness of hipsters.) So that's enough for general event description, what I want to talk about is Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands.

Describing music is always a difficult prospect, and probably why I tend to avoid doing music reviews other than "you should listen to this."  But fine.  What does Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands sound like?  Nope, I'm utterly failing to come up with anything.  What I will say is that whether they know it or not, this band is one of the most purely steampunk bands I've ever heard.  There's often discussion about the fact that there isn't one particular style of music that is steampunk.  And that's true.  Sometimes bands that call themselves steampunk or use steampunk aesthetics for their shows and clothing don't have anything I would call a steampunk sound.

This band's music, first of all is eclectic.  There are lots of influences from many different cultures and styles of music.  Just to list the instruments that Crystal herself plays will give you an idea: accordian, keyboard, musical saw, squeezebox, adungu (Ugandan harp), big African drum.  (I think that was it....)  In addition to these instruments, her band-mates play the more traditional drums and guitar, but I'd note the guitarist frequently switches to playing slide on a steel lap guitar that is put through some serious effects to sound really different.   Much of the music has an antique, carnival, Romany feel, at least when it doesn't sound much more like punk.  One of the things that I don't think comes across in recordings of the band is how much punk there is in their music, and how loud and bouncy it is live.  There were two stereotypical looking punks in the audience and they spent the ENTIRE show dancing, whether it was mock waltz or ska-style skanking or straight up punk pogo-ing.  And all of those were appropriate at various times throughout the show.

Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands
And it's that variety and uniqueness that makes this band seem so steampunk to me.  They have melded a bunch of different sounds, instruments, styles, and cultures together into something that really feels both new and yet somehow familiar.  It's using old things to make something totally new, that nevertheless reminds you of the past.  And isn't that practically the definition of steampunk?

I haven't even mentioned Crystal's voice, which is phenomenal.  That's something that does come across on their records, but even more so in person.  She has a remarkably clear voice with really gorgeous sustained notes.  And at one point she was dancing around the room singing with no mic and I couldn't at all tell the difference in loudness.  Girl can project.

Seriously, I can't really stress enough how exciting and impressive this show was.  I am a huge music geek from way, way back, and I don't get the chance to see a lot of live shows anymore, especially of new bands.  So it's been a long time since I saw a band that impressed me this much.  Probably the last time it happened was with Unwoman, and that's been a couple of years.
Some friends of mine.  She bought the bustle
 from me, since it perfectly matched her skirt!

I'll also say that Crystal and the rest of the band were very lovely people.  I spent a good amount of time chatting with Crystal before the show while we were setting up and she was incredibly friendly and genuine.  She was very enthusiastic about my wares and we worked a trade of one of my bustles for her cds.  (Once I give them more than a cursory listen, I'll probably write up a review.)  I also applaud them for giving such an energetic and sincere performance to such a small audience, which not all bands will do.

So, if any steampunk event organizers happen to read this, BOOK THIS BAND.  Seriously, they are the first call I would make were I looking for a band for a steampunk convention.  I'm not sure if they've really had much involvement in the community, but they fit right in, and people will love them.  They could use the exposure, and they are something most people won't have seen before, but that they will definitely remember.

And if they are appearing near you (they're on tour right now!) GO SEE THEM!  I PROMISE it will be worth it.

Recommended if you like: Dresden Dolls, Gogol Bordello, Abney Park, Tori Amos  (Throw them into a blender and get something similar to this band.)

No comments:

Post a Comment