Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover – Live Review of SOHN and Wet

11/16/2014

A band’s sound should not be judged if heard through a laptop speaker. The disingenuous projection lacks the underlying bass, showcasing the distinguishably unbalanced highs. So, it’s hard for me to say much about the up-and-coming bands Wet and SOHN‘s performances from this past Saturday at the Mezzanine, because their sound was clearly off. Where was the bass? The nocturnal drums that bridge both performers’ R&B styles somewhere between James Blake‘s brooding and The Weeknd‘s darker void? Even when I shifted from the downstairs to the upper-level, while the levels were more balanced, the sound still felt hollow.

But, the night wasn’t a complete wash. Wet, the nascent Brooklyn-based band with only an EP to their name, sounded promising given the context. On “Don’t Want To Be Your Girl,” singer Kelly Zutrau’s unwavering vocals had the slightest bit of breathiness, offering an earnestness to the song. Though the visual component was overly minimalist, featuring only a few camera umbrellas, their performance still captivated the excited crowd. If the success of their self-titled EP isn’t already an indicator, the group has a bright future.

I’d be more discouraged by Wet’s performance had SOHN’s set not also been a victim of the unforgiving levels. Recently anointed a band to watch by Rolling Stone , SOHN seemingly draws influences from the growing number of artists rediscovering R&B and soul with electronic music undertones. But unlike The Weeknd or Chet Faker‘s distinctive vocals, SOHN’s Christopher Taylor lacked a bravado on songs like “Bloodflows;” similarly, his vocal arrangements aren’t noticeably as experimental as Bon Iver or Blake, making it hard for him to standout. However, things came together Saturday during the performance of “Artifice,” the group’s popular single. The bass (for the first time) came crashing down creating a sound that seemed to merge Ratatat‘s mathematic synths with Pretty Lights‘ hip hop rhythms.

In conclusion, don’t let these words influence your decision to see either band because something wasn’t right that night. I don’t blame the venue, or the artists, something just wasn’t clicking. I’d be curious though, if anyone who’s seen either band live has had a similar experience.

Photos by Bob Patterson