The performance that Tune-Yards gave at the Newport was a force to be reckoned with.
The experimental pop group took to the stage Monday night only months after coming through Columbus as an opener for Arcade Fire.
Every member of the band on stage was clad in bright neon patterns and colors — and every one of them wielded a percussion instrument of some kind. They stood in front of a wild backdrop covered in eyes and teeth, eventually donning eyes on their own clothes. Coupling all of this with the lights and the music gave the performance a surreal, alien aesthetic.
Merrill Garbus, the spearhead who started Tune-Yards as a solo project, took center stage with a full drum set. Behind her were two vocalists, a bassist and another drummer/vocalist.
Tune-Yards’ set stuck heavily to manic and seemingly unpredictable drum beats, compelling the audience to dance and sing along as best as they could. Of course, singing along with Garbus was an intimidating task — her voice blasted across the venue like a siren. I wondered what the microphone was even there for.
Along with the cacophony of percussion, Garbus used synthesizers, vocal and drum loops, and she even whipped out a ukulele for a few songs.
Not only did Tune-Yards create a wonderful musical experience, but the set was also interspersed with performance art, usually involving the backup vocalists joining Garbus in front stage and bodies and facial expressions in interesting and fantastic ways. There were moments when the entire band formed a dance circle on stage, dancing and moving in sync with each other as if they were joined by one mind.
Tune-Yards’s set was incredibly easy and fun to interact with, and the audience was happy to oblige — everything from singing along to Garbus’ crazy vocals to something as common as clapping (on beat!). The best part was Garbus never had to initiate these interactions, as if there was a silent agreement between artist and audience. Although considering the insatiable and contagious tunes that dominated the set, it was hard to sit idly and watch.
After leaving this show, one might wonder if it ever happened at all — but will sincerely hope that it did.