School of Seven Bells at the Entry, 9/19/10

Categories: Last Night
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Photos by Benjamin Grimes
School of Seven Bells and Active Child
September 19, 2010
7th St. Entry, Minneapolis


Do the Twin Cities have an active enough concertgoing population to support three separate sizable touring bands on a chilly Sunday night? It turns out the answer is yes, judging from the full-but-not-sold-out crowds that swarmed the Mainroom for Dirty Projectors and the Entry for School of Seven Bells last night, not to mention those who filled Roy Wilkins in St. Paul for the Flaming Lips.

Though the Entry was the smallest show of the three big options last night, it still managed to draw a contingent of dream-pop fans to its cozy quarters. Openers Active Child were the surprise of the evening, and frontman Pat Grossi held the growing audience rapt with his strong, supple falsetto and ambient dance beats. Before the set, folks in the crowd were buzzing about the harp that was placed center stage for Active Child's set, and it was a jarring and beautiful addition to the duo's massive sound -- too bad they only used it during the first two songs.

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Photos by Benjamin Grimes
As their performance reached its peak, the highlight was absolutely "Wilderness," the band's most recognizable single, and Grossi performed a slow and sparse rendition of the song that drew even more attention to his powerful voice. Grossi specializes in hovering right around the point where his voice switches from guttural belting to high-register falsetto, a range most singers tend to avoid but which he toys with masterfully.

Listen: Active Child, "Wilderness"


School of Seven Bells had quite an act to follow by the time they took the stage, so it was unfortunate that their seemed to be immediate problems with the balance of their sound (the vocals had dropped out once during Active Child's set as well, but the issue was immediately fixed). For the first few songs twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza couldn't seem to get in sync with each other, with Claudia singing with a hand clapped over her ear and Alejandra looking perplexed.

Eventually, the focus shifted entirely to Alejandra, who has developed into a far more engaging performer in the time since the band last played Minneapolis. Alejandra would gaze out into the crowd and sing directly to the kids dancing in the front row, while Claudia was pushed over to the far side of the stage and shrouded in her long hair and shadows, mostly looking down at her keyboard. It was hard to tell if this shift in control was due to the fact that the sisters were having trouble hearing one another or if it was indicative of a larger change in the dynamic of the group, but it became more and more noticeable as their hour-long set progressed.

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Photos by Benjamin Grimes
For one of their most recognizable songs, "Windstorm," for example, Claudia stopped singing entirely, changing the entire feel of a song that normally relies heavily on mesmerizing harmonies. While guitarist Benjamin Curtis has always been the anchor of the group, last night he used these opportunities to step closer to the center of the stage and interact with Alejandra, the two of them feeding off one another and creating an engaging sense of chemistry.

It wasn't until the final song of the set when the band finally started firing on all cylinders, and their sound seemed to multiply for "My Cabal," with both sisters singing joyously and the backing tracks filling in the spaces with booming, plaster-peeling electro beats. It's a shame that it took the band so long to find their sweet spot, but it might be a sign that it's time for them to move to a larger venue the next time they come through town.

Critics' bias: I've always been a sucker for harmonies, so it was disappointing to hear School of Seven Bells move toward a more singular sound.
The crowd: A decent range of age groups, with a few middle-aged women in particular getting down to the dance songs.
Random notebook dump: Active Child's harp sort of sounds like those mall harp players who do Beatles covers. Except he would play at the mall where Jonsi gets his suit coats and Bat For Lashes buys her leggings.
For more photos: See our full slideshow by Benjamin Grimes.

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