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Concert Review: Grizzly Bear & the LA Philharmonic

Whether you've just heard "Knife" or had the "Yellow House" album on repeat for all of '06 and '07, it's undeniable that Grizzly Bear have established themselves as beloved musicians of the indie world, receiving props from some guy named Paul Simon and having their most well-known song covered by a gazillion bands like Cansei de Ser Sexy and Band of Horses. Looks like those kids had a pretty good year.

Now it can be said that if Grizzly Bear's music is known for anything, it's all in the feeling. It's warm, it's fuzzy, and it just feels so damn good. Their magic is in the personal connection made between musician and listener and every sleepless night or beautiful morning could be soundtracked with this band's songs. So now, imagine yourself late at night, drifting off to the soft sound of Dan Rossen's voice and guitar piping through your headphones. Now ditch those headphones and imagine you're in a giant wooden box with the LA Philharmonic and the best acoustics you've ever heard in your life. That's the best way I can describe Grizzly Bear and the LA Phil's show on Saturday, March 1 at Disney Hall. It's a large venue and the band somehow filled the space while keeping things feeling intimate.

First off, some clarification: some people thought that the orchestra and Grizzly Bear were going to play simultaneously, but while that would have been completely insane and amazing, it was not to be. The LA Phil opened with an hour set of pieces picked by GB, conducted by Joana Carneiro. It's a bit of a surreal experience to see such expertly-performed classical music played right before modern rock, but the evolution of music became pleasantly clearer. The ties between the classics and musicians who are inspired by such pieces were worn proudly and at the root of it all, I think the purpose of this concert was to bring new audiences to the roots of music.

After an intermission and a lengthy conversation with the ushers on why there were so many "young people" at Disney Hall, Grizzly Bear took the stage. Starting with the nostalgic "Easier," the band established the mood pretty quickly. I'm convinced that Ed Droste (vocals/guitar), Dan Rossen (vocals/guitar), Chris Taylor (bass/woodwinds/electronics/vocals/what else?!), and Chris Bear (drums/vocals) are getting better and better every time they play, picking better venues and smarter gigs. "Lullabye" never sounded prettier, "Little Brother" never sounded more electric, and they even squeezed in live rarity "Marla" (written by Droste's great-aunt in the 1930's). My personal favorite of the night? Dan Rossen's "Deep Blue Sea," a cover of an old folk traditional and simply one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard in my life. I've never seen it performed live before and the second I heard those familiar chords, I was gone.

In between songs, Droste jokingly commented on the floral carpet design of the building and Taylor was surprisingly playful with his on-stage banter. Unsurprisingly, "Knife" got the big cheers of familiarity and the volume on "Colorado" was epic. Grizzly Bear closed with a bit of a parting gift, their brand new song, "While You Wait for the Others." With bits of '60s pop influence and some sunnier tones, the track points to an exciting direction for the band and one that could be explored more fully in their next album. Leaving us with an encore of "Shift" and Crystals' cover "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)," they left on an ethereal note. The biggest thing? The acoustics! If there is anywhere a band like this should be playing, it's in a concert hall. One, because the sound quality is amplified to an astronomical level you will never hear anywhere else. Two, because the crowd stays quiet for most of the playing, letting every note soak in. It's the only way to listen to such moving music.

You know, it's been almost a week and I still find myself wishing I could go back to Saturday night. It's a rare thing when that happens and a testament to the talents of the band. If there is anything to be said about Grizzly Bear, it's that they're a true force to be reckoned with, a group of musicians that is growing in such a beautiful way. Every re-working of a song or an arrangement shows progression and every live show brings the listener closer to the musicians; that's a huge thing, feeling like you have a deep relationship with the creators of the music you listen to. What I'm saying has been said innumerable times before but what the hey, what's a few more gushing compliments and professions of love?

    LA Philharmonic (conducted by Joana Carneiro):
  • Boccherini (arr. Berio) "Ritirata notturna di Madrid"

  • Britten "Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, Op. 33"

  • Stravinsky "Suite (1919) from The Firebird"

    Grizzly Bear:
  • Easier

  • Alligator

  • Lullabye

  • Little Brother

  • Service Bell

  • Marla

  • Knife

  • Deep Blue Sea

  • Colorado

  • On A Neck, On A Spit

  • While You Wait for the Others

  • ---
  • Shift

  • He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)