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GURNETT: Basic Printer treats fans to 'a night of crazy, experimental synth pop'

If you were lucky enough to be in attendance at Mohawk Place on Wednesday, April 11th, you were treated to a night of crazy, experimental synth pop by Nashville’s Basic Printer, along with two of the best bands the Buffalo music scene has to offer: Humble Braggers and dreambeaches.

Band-on-the-rise Humble Braggers started off the night with an inspired set that had the crowd moving. For the uninitiated, Humble Braggers’ sound is one that mixes modern dance-pop with a veneer of 80’s pop.

The entire band sounded great, but the star of the show was vocalist Tom Burtless. His vocals, clearly influenced by the work of Morrissey and other Brit stars of the 80’s through today (think Coldplay, James and Love Spit Love), sound like they were custom-made for radio pop stardom. With his tenor and the thick reverb on his vocals, every word out of his mouth sounded so powerful it might never decay. From his confidence to his perfectly coiffed hair, he is a supremely talented performer completely comfortable in his own skin. He could teach a college-level course on stage presence.

Drummer Matt Chavanne’s performance was sturdy and steady, while bassist Bryan Zells  provided depth with a thick, clear bass tone. Keyboardist Tom Stoklosa chipped in with thick-sounding chords and booming drones that helped set the mood for the rest of the band.

Then Basic Printer took the stage. The brainchild of Jesse Gillenwalters (who writes and performs all of the material himself on his albums), Basic Printer was unlike anything I’ve seen in quite some time. The live band consists of Gillenwalters on vocals and electronics (a combination of synths, samplers and other fun stuff), keyboardist Aaron Walters, guitarist Peter Ferguson and drummer Gabe Millman.

I’ve heard experimental music before, and I’ve heard synth pop before, but never joined together like this. The manic pop that comes from this combination of styles swings wildly from genre to genre, from pop to punk to metal, in the span of a minute. If the musical acrobatics weren’t enough, the music itself bordered on math-rock and rivaled the intricacy of avant mastermind Frank Zappa. The set was full of unrelated, unexpected and sometimes jarring interludes, including one where the band froze in place for about 15 seconds. Every new section of each song was full of surprise. These guys are many things, but predictable is not one of them.

Walters did an impressive job handling bass duties on his left hand while performing all sorts of melodic parts with his right. The whole band showed great flexibility by being able to adjust to such odd changes. Gillenwalters’ parts are so intricately written, bizarre and complex that finding musicians who can pull them off is nothing short of a miracle. 

The band was clearly having a blast while Gillenwaters was in a world of his own, lost in the music. It’s always exciting to see a great performer in “the zone” and at his peak. The set, which also showed influences from artists like Beck and Flaming Lips, was supremely entertaining to watch. I can’t remember the last time I was so riveted by a live performance.

Next, dreambeaches brought their emotional rock to the stage. The band, a six-piece with two horn players, showed off their musical arrangement prowess through beautiful four-part vocal harmonies that harkened back to the day of Motown and Phil Spector's “Wall of Sound.”

Vocalist/guitarist Corey Bzikziak’s style seems to have taken a cue from Bombay Bicycle Club, both in the timbre of his voice and the rhythm and melody of his vocal parts. Compared to the synth pop of the other two acts, dreambeaches’s style was more straightforward rock, with funky bass lines and steady drumming on a fairly minimalist kit.

dreambeaches capped off their final song of the evening by throwing a bouquet into the crowd and telling everyone to dance like the person who caught it. It was a smart move to keep the audience moving, and watching 30 or so people dancing in unison and having a blast was a great way to end an excellent evening of live music. dreambeaches is a talented band, and I look forward to seeing them again.

This show cost $7 and featured the best original music Buffalo has to offer. Where were you? Get out and support the arts!

Ryan Gurnett has a B.S. in Music Industry from The College of St Rose. He has worked as a studio engineer, live sound engineer, producer and sound editor and has been a musician for 25 years. He is currently the co-host of The Struggle is Real Buffalo Music Podcast and bassist for The Lady, or the Tiger?. Email him at SirWilliamIdol@gmail.com or find him on Twitter @SirWilliamIdol.

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