Last week, I abused my new magical intern guest list powers to score tickets to see City of the Sun over at Gramercy Theatre. Convinced by a friend to go along, I was skeptical. A headlining band consisting of nothing more than two guitars, a box, and some bells? No vocals at all? Not even some rhythmic ululations? What’s the point?
First, a note on the theater–this place has finally solved, in my opinion, the eternal question of what to do with audience members. Do we make them stand in a large, heaving frenzy, unfairly discriminating against Short-Americans? (I’m not bitter. Who? Me? Nah.) Or do we pin them undemocratically to seats, restricting their ability to go with the flow, roll with the punches (I’m talking real punches, here), lose themselves to the music with their sweaty, ecstatic fellow human beings? Answer: neither! The front of Gramercy is an open space, with raised seats in the very back, letting audience members move around as they please. Come on, people. It shouldn’t have taken this long.
But back to the band. A sold-out show for three dudes, not one of them a singer. A multicultural gang, the boys are from all over, and their style reflects this. The sound was unique, percussive, taking you to the streets of Eastern Europe, entreating you to get up and dance with gypsies, jokers, and midnight tokers. The music built an arc that lost you in time, beginning slow and rising to an electric, primal climax. The accompanying light show was a stoner’s dream come true, radiating to something beyond, entrancing you with the help of Avi’s virtuosic fingerpicking and the sharp, hungry rhythms.
What is the future of a band like this? A group that can have a dedicated fan base, but never a Top 40 hit? Does this mean that, to have a successful show without words to sing along to, it has to become an experience? Pretty, flashing lights, lots of potential for recreational drug use, a spectacle? Perhaps, from a commercial perspective. But even if it is… a sold out theater is a sold out theater. Lyrics or no.