For the most part, Bechtolt’s performance on Sunday, August 19th was just him, a mike, and an iBook, but he made up for that with great songs and stage antics. It wasn’t just his hyper white-boy dance moves or upbeat delivery of lyrics like, “We want all that stuff / All that stuff that costs too much.” Bechtolt also engaged the crowd with an impromptu question-and-answer session, and even delivered one song straight from amongst the fans.
Best known for being one-half of the electronic outfit The Blow, Bechtolt has been releasing solo work under the YACHT name since 2003, with two records out in 2007: Our Friends in Hell, inventive remixes of songs by Architecture in Helsinki, White Rainbow, and others, and his original I Believe In You. Your Magic Is Real (QRO review). Just about to start touring with Dirty Projectors, Vampire Weekend, and White Rainbow, the Portland, Oregon native drove three-and-a-half days to make it to New York for the Pool Party. Other artists might have been worn out by the travel, but Bechtolt was full of energy (maybe it was a jazzed-up second wind, like when one stays up all night and, at a certain point, gets weirdly hyper).
Bechtolt opened his set with two pieces off of Your Magic, “We’re Always Waiting” and “So Post All ‘Em”. All of the beats came off of his open laptop, leaving Bechtolt free to sing and, possibly more importantly, dance. Jumpy and manic like an indie-rock kid on a sugar high (or a younger Beck, or maybe the electronica version of Matt Johnson of Matt & Kim, freed from sitting down), Bechtolt busted some ridiculous – and ridiculously awesome – moves, all across the stage. While never too out of breath to sing, the dancing did slightly overshadow the music, but it was all just a hell of a lot of fun. After the bright dancetronica of “Post” came a new number, similar, but a little darker, which had probably the greatest chorus line of a series of great chorus lines in the set, “Everything is fucked / So what we gonna do?”
After that, there was a legitimately possibility that this could all wear a little thin, but then Bechtolt totally disarmed the audience by asking, “Before we go any further, does anybody have any questions?” At first, the crowd didn’t know what to do, didn’t even believe what he was saying, but then Bechtolt sat at the edge of the stage and said, “I know this is kind of awkward; you’re not used to the interaction. But, check this out, we’re just here together, you guys.” And then the small-for-the-3,000-person-capacity-McCarren (QRO venue review) audience (thanks to him being the first of three, and the slight drizzle of the always-threatening-worse weather) launched into an odd, but fun, Q&A session. Questions ranged from what does his t-shirt say (Rancho Poncho, the name of a tour he did – and “Rancho is this thing in Japan, where kids put their hands together like this [palms together, like in prayer], and shove it up your friend’s butt”), “Why did you bring the Portland rain?” (“A fucking storm followed us the whole way here!”), and why, unlike earlier YACHT releases, does Your Magic have lyrics (“I don’t know. Just happened”).
After about four minutes of that, Bechtolt took the crowd connection a step further, and climbed over the photo well and directly into the audience for “The Magic Beat”. With his cord mike fully stretched, hanging in the air from the stage to his hand, Bechtolt delivered a great version of the somewhat unimpressive on Your Magic “Beat”, dancing right there amid the crowd. Again, the dancing might have been a little more of the focus than the singing, but no one could complain.
Bechtolt then climbed back on stage for a strong, dance-y new number (chorus: “Will we go to heaven / Or will we go to hell? / It’s my understanding / That neither is real”) that still went on too long, and Your Magic’s “It’s Coming To Get You”. But the best straight-up music was reserved for last, as Bechtolt brought his girlfriend on-stage to do the falsetto vocal parts for the final two numbers, “I Believe In You” and “See A Penny (Pick It Up)”. One of Your Magic’s two title tracks (along with the ‘thanks to’ “Your Magic Is Real”), “Believe” serves as sort of the record’s anthem, and it was the anthem of YACHT’s performance at McCarren, like a ‘call to arms’ to have fun. “Penny” is more of change on Your Magic, but it was the audience favorite, and Bechtolt sharing the singing duties on the last two didn’t just mean better vocals: it also meant he could dance more.
The final McCarren Park Pool Party was cursed by rain and the subsequent lower-than-normal turnout, but anyone who showed up early got to see something totally different and exciting in YACHT. Brave and unafraid, Jona Bechtolt didn’t hesitate in his one-man act, despite the weather, small crowd, giant stage, and even more giant venue. If anything, he actually turned those negatives into positives, by engaging the crowd in a way he might not have been able to, if they were larger, indoors, or in a smaller setting. Here’s hoping he can keep this up, wherever YACHT may dock.