Bear Hands: Live at Leeds Festival 2009
(Photo from samsaunders’ Flickr page: link)
It’s only 12:45 p.m., but there’s an urgency and a rawness to Bear Hands’ set that immediately wakes the audience from their hung-over stupor. The Festival Republic Stage is by no means full; in fact, the Brooklyn quartet drew a crowd probably four times this size only three days ago on the Dance to the Radio Stage. It’s quite obvious that for many people here this is the second time they’ve caught Bear Hands at the festival; unfortunately, it’s also the second time they’ve all been left crying out for more at the end of their set.
Although Dylan Rau (QRO interview) instinctively hides behind his mic throughout the show, the singer/guitarist seems completely relaxed and confident this time around, even joking on occasions with the engaged crowd. Even guitarist Feldman and bassist Val Lopez, usually unheard beneath Rau’s dominant vocals and pensive lyrics, now dominate the stage, bringing to the forefront the driving beat and rhythm of their inventive guitar lines and percussion arrangements. Yes, their sharp, percussive indie-rock is something you’ve heard churned out by hundreds of other bands before, but it’s executed with the spirit and precision you’d only find in exceptional, seasoned bands.From the ricocheting tambourines and cymbals of “Sickly Brunette” and “Can’t Stick ‘Em” to the high octane “Vietnam”, there’s something indescribably edgy, exciting and fresh about their sound.
After thrashing their way through the set, one could sense that much of the audience left fully aware that they wouldn’t see a better band on this stage, perhaps even across the entire festival site, all weekend. Yet what’s most exciting about Bear Hands is the improvement in their live show over the last year; you’re left wondering how much further they’re going to have perfected their sound the next time they hit the UK festival circuit. Have no doubt whatsoever that with their first full length release, due to be released in the new year, they’ll make shockwaves in Britain.