LIVE REVIEW: The Morning Benders @ The Black Cat, DC 11/12
People crammed inside the Black Cat bar-cum-concert venue for the night’s sold out event. The show opened with Oberhofer, whose body flailing insanity was tempered by waves of â€˜ooohing’ and a sound one can only describe as “scchkking.” In fact much of what Oberhofer does is indescribable, but for those grappling with a sound-a-like the best is a Frankenstein creation of The Dodos, Spoon, MGMT and Beach Fossils. Songs such as “Away FRM U” and “OoOoOo” were crowd-pleasers along with the Bert and Ernie stickers he had taped to his guitar, one that he somehow plays sans pick.
When Andrea Estella took the stage her deceivingly normal sweater and skinny black jeans could not suppress her ethereal nature, and onlookers gazed and eagerly swayed along to her Cocteau-by-way-of Bjork vocals. Twin Sister, however, is very much a band and not simply a one-woman show. Their success lies in the fluidity of their members, from Dev Gupta’s earnest keyboarding to the soulful vocals and guitar plucks of Eric Cardona. Songs like “I Want a House” showcased their dream-pop sound, and “Milk & Honey” was one of the night’s best offerings.
When the first few notes of their hit “Excuses” began to play and from the shadows the Morning Benders emerged, the crowd went wild. Speaking against shrieks, lead singer Chris Chu announced, “We have this new record Big Echo and we’d like to play it for you tonight if that’s okay.” Despite the risk, the Morning Benders easily lured in the audience with their first three songs, “Wet Cement,” “Mason Jar” and â€˜Boarded Doors,” the last track taken off their first album Talking Through Tin Cans. Oh Chris Chu, you sneaky little devil. And while a few tricks were thrown in, the set was composed of what the Benders do best: solid sunny indie-rock done in way that gives the ubiquitous term some meaning.
However, the pinnacle of the night came with the closing anthem “Excuses.” When Chu pressed his lips to the microphone and began, “I’ll tape my tongue to the southern tip of your body,” roughly 37 girls fainted. Luckily they had the crowd, pulsing with momentum, to push them back up again. They likely arose just in time to see Chu jump off the stage into the audience, at which point they promptly fainted again.
When Chu returned to the stage, there was a surprise that neither the audience, nor the band seemingly expected. Both Oberhofer and Twin Sister came up behind the Bender quartet and joined them on stage. The swaying, dancing and some wonderfully Fresh Prince-esque dance moves from Andrea Estella made the song feel like one big group hug.
When the lights went up, and people detached from their embraces, a pretty, doe-eyed girl remarked, “The Morning Benders are simply great.” And she was right. They are great in the way that makes even DC curmudgeons participate in doo-wop sing-alongs; great in the way that when the Brothers Chu strum the first chords of “Virgins” it makes you feel vulnerable every time in the same way you did your first time; great in the way that despite all the world’s noise and chatter, songs like â€˜Excuses” can make one believe that things are going to turn out okay. And so for that, Morning Benders, we gratefully salute you.