with Onuinu, Britt Daley
The Plaza 'Live' Theatre, Orlando, FL May 31, 2012
YACHT is more than just a band, it's an art project that strives to unite people, encourage conversation, inspire creation, and entertain through a mutually shared experience between artist and audience. Hipster pow-wow, dance party for the rhythmically challanged, or the only place in the world where wearing purple, red, green, pink, fish-nets, and zebra print all within one odd little thrift-store ensemble is not only okay, but results in nods of approval from your peers. A YACHT (all capital letters) concert is all of these things and a bag of quirky, rolled up in some organic flatbread sprinkled with happy dust.
The lobby of The Plaza Theater looked like a school dance from a John Hughes picture. Guys and gals, in outfits they will grow to be embarrassed by in later years (yes, you will, I promise), lined the walls in movie theater chairs watching each other come and go with sadly sweet smiles on their quiet faces. Not many venture up to the bar, or out onto the smoking porch. YACHT fans purchase their highs from the merch table in the form of vinyl records, t-shirts with triangle-shaped smiley faces on them (the band's adorable logo), and a cheeky manifesto-type book titled The Secret Teachings of the Mystery Lights. Further enhancing their store-bought high was the fan-friendly perk that came in the form of having band founder Jona Bechtolt on hand to decorate the merch with his signature.
It was an interesting little scene in the lobby beside the popcorn and pretzel stand, but I did venture into the showroom to get a quick listen of Britt Daley. The sugary popstar, whose American Idol voice and Barbie doll face make electro sound a little too Disney for my taste, was a surprise hit with the toe-tapping locals. Her smile was infectious, and I almost felt bad stepping out of the room after only a couple of songs, but not bad enough to stay.
Onuinu ( pronounced: on-you-in-you) was a whole other kind of odd. Dorian Duvall, backed by a drummer, hides in complete darkness onstage and proceeds to drench us with some mood-altering indie electro pulled from the same well from which M83 has filled his buckets. It would have been preferable to have actually had something to LOOK at while getting lost inside of these beautiful disco/techno beats and Duvall's soulful vox, but my guess is that the lack of light was an artistic choice to further enhance the senses. Mission accomplished, Mr. Hide-in-the-Shadows.
YACHT hearts The Internet. I know this because a pre-concert computer slide show told me so. YACHT also hearts The Fans. I know this because few bands interact with their audience as frequently, or as sincerely, as the two main members of this "Western American Utopian Triangle" based Art band. Jona Bechtolt and the white-dressed, elfin-like Claire L. Evans even pause for a quick Q & A mid-set, where they field questions like "Claire, why is your hair so awesome?" or "Can you tell us about the secret teachings of the mystery lights?" The answer to that second question, by the way, is a long, complicated, philosophical explanation about overcoming humanity and becoming your own God. To which Evans then confesses, "You can read the book at our merch table -- it'll only take you five minutes."
If that sounds a little odd to you -- a band with its own ideology, sold in book form at gigs -- then their music may not quite register on your radar either. It's computerized dance music with a live band, layered on high with bleeps, blips, and synthesizer sounds, and the my-turn/your-turn vocals of Evans and Bechtolt. The end result sounds like a video game backtrack mashed up with some obscure dance club remix and blared through some shoddy speakers at a pep rally. They put out their last couple of records on the DFA Label -- home to LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip -- if that clears things up further.
Songs from the group's last two albums, Shangri-La and See Mystery Lights, made up the bulk of the set, meaning that we got to twitch and pose to "Paradise Engineering," "I Walked Alone," "Summer Song," and "The Afterlife," to name a few. In-between songs, handclaps, oohs, aahhs, and Q & A sessions, life lesson nuggets were slipped in by the pair onstage:
"The only place is HERE. The only time is NOW. You don't have to do anything because it's already happening!"
A YACHT concert is more than just a show, it's more than just a party, it's a community. At least that's what it strives to be, and while they may not have entirely mastered the ability to hold an entire room in the palm of their hands and teleport them into a world where no one would even think about slipping out early, they sure do try hard -- and it's a damn good time!
Gallery of live shots from this show: YACHT.