Years ago, when I was still a New York newbie, in the late 2009 if memory serves, I went to the Mercury Lounge for the first time to catch Holly Golightly. I was excited to be in the city of my dreams, soaking up the tiny club venues, and desperate to hear as much new music as the fabled city offered. And this night left me with a big smile on my face as I came across a new discovery: a, then-New York based, rock duo that had me texting all my friends as a “must-see” act. That band was She Keeps Bees. Now, years later, after moving away to Maryland, they are back in New York (only not the city this time). They recently played Rough Trade with both The Heavy Howl and newcomers Bel Aviv.
Bel Aviv started the night with what was, maybe, their third show ever (and they’ve already played Brooklyn Steel before this, so not a bad start there). The band describes itself as “breakup beach music” and carries a sound that has an ethereal quality to it. Lead singer and bassist Karen Kanan Correa is ready with thumping bass lines and one of the more interesting voices I’ve heard of late. Where the band really stood out to me was the drumming of Sivan Harlap. Harlap drives the beat and keeps propelling the songs forward every time she swings across her kit. This is a band to keep your eye on. They are currently recording their first EP with Frightened Rabbit’s Andy Monaghan.
Next up was the heavier growl that is The Heavy Howl (yeah I know, I can feel you groaning through the internet). The band is much grittier and fills out with a more post-rock laden sound live, than you will hear on their 2015 EP New Mistake. It always brings a smile to my face when a band that plays as far apart from each other on stage as they can, and still manage to fill up the space with a bluesy rumble. The band is set to release their new single, “Ponderosa,” next month.
Finally it was time for Jessica Larrabee and Andy LaPlant to take the stage. This duo evokes comparisons to bands like Cat Power and The White Stripes. There is an effortless quality in the way the duo creates a complex layered sound. They evoke blues and Americana-styled storytelling as Larrabee’s voice keeps you on edge throughout their sets. The band might look like they’re dark and brooding (based on some promo shots you might’ve seen across the music sphere), but nothing could be farther from the truth. Larrabee has charming goofiness when she’s joking with the audience, and LaPlant’s smile as this goes on is as personable as it gets.
The band can go from quiet to loud in an instant, and never lingers too long in either spectrum. LaPlant’s drums have a thunderous bass like quality to them (and even uses, maybe the most New York implement of all to play them with – an actual bagel) and Larrabee gets plenty of fuzz out of her guitars. The imagery is vivid and the songs hint at pain and loss, and yet, the music makes you feel good.
She Keeps Bees had a decided political message this night. Not just in the song “Our Bodies” that they played that night, but with Larrabee’s efforts to help raise funds of Planned Parenthood (The band has played benefits recently for both Planned Parenthood and EarthJustice). She created little wooden pins, which audience members could pick up for a donation. Larrabee wants the pins to raise awareness with humor as they come painted with images of pink beavers, pink clams, and more.
“We believe in women’s right to health care and trusting women to make decisions for themselves. PP saved my life as a young woman and I want to make sure other women have a safe place to get the care they need,” Larrabee told me.
She Keeps Bees plans to release a 7″ in July with the songs, Head of Steak & Our Bodies, and will donates the first year of profits to both Planned Parenthood and EarthJustice.
Oh, and by the way, the band is still that must-see that you want to text your friends about after the show.
She Keeps Bees Setlist:
All or None/Dark Horse
Radiance Come to Me – Bjork cover
Head of Steak
Article: Omar Kasrawi