live review

Ratatat Wellington Bodega, 14th May

Ratatat Wellington Bodega, 14th May

May 14 2009
Bodega, Wellington

Reviewed by Paul Gallagher
29th March 2010

Ratatat's Evan Mast and Mike Stroud are an interesting duo that attract an even more interesting crowd. They play a unique brand of the guitar-based + synth fest formula that has become so goddamned popular over the last few years.

Ratatat are, like, so cool right now, they’re an overwhelming commercial success and the kids just fucking love them.

I entered the fray at Bodega Bar this night with a sour mood in mind: I remember seeing Ratatat at the Kings Arms in Auckland when they came to tour “Classics” – then their live performance was like buying a fresh loaf of bread and watching it go stale slowly. A long, gimmicky-sounding set which got BORING. Honestly, it really did.

But this time it was different.

Begin. Assyrian princesses, fucked up Abba medleys, clouds, rainbows, surf-punk big wave riding, girls being pushed right up the front, bird-head bobbing, design student pretension, NOISE, pushing + shoving, circles, drunks, Victoria University drug-addled jocks, American Apparel, dance, starbursts, sticky floors, dreadlocks, shining lights, cut-up Scandinavian faces, spilled beer, dance, fire light on fluoro-clothing, thick rimmed glasses, urban flotsam, oddly-aggressive Cuba St Kids, more bird-head-bobbing, crowd surfing, NOISE, more spilled beer, DANCE! End. Encore. End.

Mast and Stroud had re-jigged the projector and made better clips to accompany all their new singles. And their set held the attention of the young and carefree crowd there to see a show that justified its sold-out hype. Much of “Classics” made an appearance – “Lex” and “Wildcat” were obvious crowd pleasers – as did many tracks from their latest album, “LP3”, including the impressively prominent track “Bird Priest”.

There is a sense that Ratatat are thinking about their music more deeply these days. Sure, they’re still shredding away and using their guitars as weapons at times to grind down the crowd with an aural barrage. But there are now lighter, more constructed moments in their music – obviously influenced by the recent rise of the psych-pop infringers from their home-town of Brooklyn, NY – and Ratatat now recognise some of their own limits. The idea is not to drown the world with sound, but to find a refined discipline within that sound with which to melt the eardrums of the affectionate. Mast and Stroud are now craftsmen. And their craft is as close to perfection as creativity gets.

And the duo read the crowd so well, building a co-habitual relationship with them – they stopped their set to ensure the survival chances of a few crushed fans. There were no complaints. We understood. And then they played some more. Ratatat thrive on the enthusiasm of their fans and they in turn respond by respecting the band. Ratatat impressed all and sundry with their layered, structured set of guitar / synth-pop music perfection.

Ratatat are a band that I had written off as being a poor live experience - this time, on this night, they blew me away.

Just a really, really good night out.

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