The Antlers At Mack Sennett Studios: Review
The Brooklyn-based band was invited to perform as part of the Pandora Presents and StubHub series, where the promise of live poster-printing and an open bar were additional incentives, but it was the music that elicited the eager response.
The Antlers made their formal debut in 2009 with “Hospice,” an album that painfully and poignantly articulates the tale of a hospice worker and a patient and their tumultuous relationship. With two supplemental EPs in the stretch between then and the release of this year’s LP “Familiars,” the band solidified itself as one of indie music’s best kept secrets.
Musically, The Antlers possess the same uncanny emotionality as Explosions in the Sky, but the former’s jarring lyrics fill in the blanks. While the band’s EPs yield a more ambient sound, “Familiars” sounds unmistakably dewy, music that sonically illustrates the process that occurs between bitter nightfall and the simultaneous sadness and optimism of the next morning’s moisture.
A sound that orchestral was bound to swell in the studio space, deafen the anxious crowd and lull them into silent stupor. The result was something else, but in a way more striking.
The premise of an open bar at a concert has a funny way of making a concert feel more intimate. As the show becomes noticeably more social, those not engaging in cocktail conversation dissociate from the crowd. The hauntingly angelic voice of Peter Silberman slices through the buzz the same way silverware chimes against glass during a toast. But not everyone looked up. It was as if, through the surrounding noise, The Antlers played the concert for every singular person who chose to listen. And for those who let the chatter around them fade out, the effect was chilling.
For a more upbeat band, or even one with marginally more cheerful with lighter and airier material, the experience might have felt gleefully exclusive. The Antlers are not that band. Instead, the subtle intimacy of their interaction with the audience evoked feelings of loneliness. Despite the jovial conversation and the laughter in the room, the nature of the environment amplified the sadness and eerie isolation of their music.
The venue was set up with a vast arced white wall, which became drenched in vibrant lights—pink, yellow, orange, green purple—and seemed to swath the band in heaviness. As each song reached its acme and electric guitar reared its screeching head, lasers pierced the stage creating geometric shapes and generating the same pseudo-ambient aspect of the band’s music.
The Antlers played tracks primarily from their first album and chose a select few from the rest of their discography, but their transitions were so effortless and their material so fluid that the show felt like one stretching, maturing and undulating ballad.
By the night’s end, happy concert goers, clutching their limited edition posters or downing their last drinks, were whispering excitedly to each other, reveling in how special the evening was. And it was special, but those who allowed themselves to be swallowed whole by the sound witnessed something else entirely, something infinitely more.