Small Black live in Williamsburg

by Samuel Hernandez

Small Black are an inventive band. They are not simply satisfied: not with simply being a lo-fi band, or with simply being a band from Brooklyn, or kowtowing to a particular brand. Every aspect of their music is by design rather than coincidence.

The hushed vocals will never go away because it’s the vibe of the band, just like the powerful bass and ethereal electronic beats. All these things make Small Black interesting.

But for the beginning of their Music Hall of Williamsburg set, they were out of sync and tired. Small problems made the performance slip towards the bad. They were initially scheduled to go on at 10, on a Sunday night a reasonable time, but were pushed back by the addition of a second opener. Not a problem, more music is never to be complained about. At 11 they began to set up their equipment, but alas, a snag and technical difficulty slowed the show down once again. I suspect that the technical problem was the lights on the lead singer’s keyboard, but ambience is an important part of the show as well. The set began at 11:30 and felt like the audience was eager and ready to dance, but also frustrated and tired.

It took four songs. On the fourth song, the lead singer made the proclamation, “This song is about half assing things, because sometimes that’s just what you have to do.” It was the best song of the night. This is a band that three years ago was playing warehouse parties in Brooklyn, two years ago was playing a free Saturday gig at the Brooklyn museum, and now was headlining the biggest venue in the borough. (Sorry Barclays, you’ll never count.) After this, the bassist took off, swinging his instrument with wild abandon, evoking the bass greats and carrying the band on his shoulders. The vocals became a little more clear and contributed to the mood rather than being a distant puzzle.

“This is the portion of the set we call the dance section.” Things fell into place from here. The audience members who hadn’t left were rewarded with music powerful enough to get their bodies moving, energy pouring from the stage, and the finest bass playing they’d ever seen. Despite the late hour, Small Black finished the set like they were the only band from Brooklyn; as if in coming home they were bringing home the fire they had walked away with when they went on tour.

There are truths in a Small Black set: you will be encouraged to dance, if you’re standing close to the bassist there is a possibility he will hit you with the neck of his instrument without noticing, you won’t be able to differentiate lyrics, but that’s the mood, and if you don’t get the mood of Small Black, you’re missing out on a movement.

Image courtesy of the band.