Porcelain Raft @ Kilby 09.17 with Silver Antlers, The Circulars

Posted September 20, 2013 in
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Porcelain Raft's Mauro Remiddi. Photo: Shawn Brackbill
Arriving at Kilby Court at sunset, I found myself scoping out the crowd and the scenery surrounding the small venue. A small group of about 25 people were talking about the show, the bands and future of the Salt Lake music scene. One couple in particular stated that the reason that this show had such a small turnout was due to the fact that Porcelain Raft’s sound hadn’t made its way west yet, but they assured me that once it did, shows like this would be sold out.

As we were discussing various scenes, I heard what sounded like an extended sound check—bits of vocals, random electronic sounds and even short film clips. I paid them no attention until I noticed that the audience’s focus was set on the stage—the first act had gone on stage and I hadn’t even noticed! There was no announcement, nothing said to the audience, just straight into an avant-garde performance complete with unintelligible vocal sounds, grainy home movies projected on the back wall and electronic soundscapes. One song in particular sounded like someone was orchestrating audio feedback. Then, after four songs, there was a really abrupt change to an upbeat piano jig complete with birds chirping, and the artist practically ran off the stage, then came back up to announce that the name of his project was Silver Antlers, then ran off again. Um, OK … that was weird. Just when I was getting into the whole performance art thing, the artist up and leaves.

Not 20 minutes later, the next band was set up and ready to go—once again without any kind of announcement—only this time it was the headliner Porcelain Raft. There was an interesting set-up with two synths arranged at the front of the stage with the drummer at the back. Yet the lead singer also played guitar, synth and tambourine, while the bassist also played the synth, and the drummer also sang. It seems as if everyone had multiple roles in the band, which makes the end result that much more remarkable. They opened with “Think of the Ocean,” a dark and moody, almost wordless electronic anthem, then quickly followed by the mellow “Cluster.” By the time the third song rolled around, lead singer Mauro Remiddi let the small, but active audience know that somehow his next song, “Shapeless and Gone,” had something to do with the Rocky Mountains—even though the song wasn’t written with them in mind—and that he was blown away with the landscape of Utah and Colorado. “Minor Pleasure” ended with Remiddi blowing a harmonica directly into the mic, creating an unexpected computer-esque sound while simultaneously blowing out my eardrums.

I have to say, I was impressed with Porcelain Raft’s ability to stay true to their studio sound, particularly Remiddi’s ability to hit all the high notes. However, I was a little disappointed at the length of the show, clocking in at just under an hour, I was expecting more, and it wasn’t just me. Although there were only a few of us in the audience, we were all clamoring for more—and boy, did they deliver. Remiddi invited the entire audience on the stage for their encore song—and my personal favorite, “I Lost Connection,” allowing for an amazingly intimate gathering of fans and musicians.

I thought this was the end of the show, but apparently there was another band scheduled to go on after the headliner. I don’t know if they arrived late or were having problems, but The Circulars were taking the stage just as I was making my way towards the door. It was unfortunate that they went after the headliner, since my expectations—and everyone else’s were high after just experiencing being on stage for my favorite song by the headliner. I wasn’t sure if they couldn’t hear each other or what was going on. The show was stopped to make adjustments a few times, and it seemed like none of the band members could hear each other, as each member was trying to be the loudest. Everything was loud, except for the vocals, which had way too much echo, and not enough power to them, making it sound garbled and incomprehensible. It’s unfortunate because the girl on bass was killer, and so was the keyboardist, but the vocals just couldn’t compare to the raw power coming from the band, though the potential is definitely there.

Overall, the energy of the show was subdued and mellow, but I was disappointed at the length of the sets (Silver Antlers had a 4-song set, Porcelain Raft a 9-song set and The Circulars a 5-song set) and the general lack of stage presence. I was also thrown off by the strange line-up (I always thought they saved the best for last?). However, the overall quality of the musicianship made up for most of the shows shortcomings.
Porcelain Raft's Mauro Remiddi. Photo: Shawn Brackbill