SHOW REVIEW: Cate le Bon w/ Pigeons

There is something irresistibly intriguing about Cate le Bon.

Cate le Bon
Though released in 2009, I came across her debut album Me Oh My just last year and immediately became obsessed with it.  Truthfully, I wasn’t really listeningto anything else like it at the time. Her unique brand ofpsych-tinged folk pop seemed out of place in my queue, butnevertheless it made me reminiscent of the time I went to France andin the course of exploring Brittany spent an afternoon traipsingthrough the labyrinthian grounds of a sprawling Chateau where footpaths overgrown with roses overlooked a lush river valley and springtime seemed eternal.
Cate’s newest offering, Cyrk, delves even further into thepsychedelic wanderings on Me Oh My; none of the songs would have beenout of place on my Electric Lemonade Acid Test comps, or in a circussideshow where both audience and performers are on hallucinogens. Cate’s vocals are theatrical and haunting without being over-the-top. She seems at once mournful, chiding, dreamy, furious, and yearning. And again I am transported, wishing I could time warp to the streetsof 1960’s London, where I’d run around in a brightly colored velvetfrock, platform boots, and a floppy hat. This is a desire that Iprobably haven’t had since I watched Velvet Goldmine for the firsttime at the tender age of sixteen.
When I heard the Welsh singer would bemaking her way to Mercury Lounge to kick off her stateside tourin support of the album, I was filled with an overwhelming sense thatif I went to the show, these flights of fancy would somehow be laidbare, that I could better understand their point of origin and in sodoing clear my head of such visions. The voice would spring from between my ears to stage and become reality instead of myth. Either that, orrainbows would spring from Cate’s fingertips and she’d give birth toa full-grown unicorn before our eyes.

The show began insanely early. Iarrived not long after seven and had already missed half of the setfrom openers Pigeons. Pigeons are another band that is difficultto… well, pigeon-hole. The first recordings I’d heard of the bandfeatured songs sung in French, but apparently they hail from theBronx. Lead singer Wednesday Knudsen (which sounds like a name onlyJonathan Lethem would think up) is extremely tall and too skinny even to be a model, and her shoulders curl slightly over her guitar likea Madonna over Baby Jesus in a Mannerist painting. I caught Pigeonsas a two piece at a CMJ showcase last October, but here the bandplayed with their full live lineup. For fans of psych folk, I woulddefinitely recommend catching one of their laid-back but beautifulsets. I would also recommend doing some kind of drugs beforehand.

Cate took the stage just before eighto’clock, shrouded in a floral smock, her perfect auburn bobsilhouetted by blue lights, bangs bluntly cut just above her smokey eyes. Herclarion voice was in top form as she tore through the set, and I wasextremely impressed by the way she handled her guitar, at turnsculling somber tones from the instrument and then wailing high notesat the next. She belted out the lyrics in measured breaths, swayingwith each beat but focused intensely on playing rather thanposturing. She implored the audience to come to the show in Hobokenthe following night – with emphasis on the second syllable ofHoboken rather than the first, yet was gently teasing in explaininghow to properly pronounce the title of the record – SURK, not KIRK. Her backing band was as instrumentally versatile as she, rotatingkeys and guitars comfortably through renditions of “Put To Work”,“Falcon Eyes”, “Me Oh My”, “Julia”, “Cyrk”, “FoldThe Cloth” and others. Cate and Co. closed the set with both partsof “Ploughing Out” before she dramatically smashed her guitarinto her bassist’s, snarling the strings and leading astonished fansto believe there would be no encore, though it was not yet nine o’clock. However, after a brief absence, Catereturned for one more tune, this time at the keyboard. A video ofthe encore can be seen below.

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