Body Parts w/ Sama Dams and Animal Eyes
By Dom Sinacola | 3 September 2013
This band called Body Parts has a name that invariably works. Should the time come when they step out from the day-glo shadow of their impeccable standard of dance-pop, the two words they’ve branded on said dance-pop would serve quite well no matter what else they took up. Body Parts is a band that’s the sum of its parts—hey, it’s been a while, is it still cool to write “’natch” in music reviews?—like most bands, but unlike most bands, Body Parts never seems beholden to the obvious influences that inhabit each band member like a glutted tape worm.
And the influences are really obvious: on excellent new album Fire Dream, which is out in October on Father / Daughter Records, lead singer/songwriter Ryder Bach sometimes hoots like a polished Ted Leo (“That’s a comparison I really like in my head,” I recently texted a friend), and sometimes forces a song’s cadence to catch up, like Kevin Barnes without the unearned drama. Folks will imagine Scissor Sisters with decidedly less flare; Dirty Projectors who’d never dream of covering Black Flag; or !!! in comfortable sundresses. I would coin the phrase Passion-Pity if that didn’t serve Passion Pit so well and also if that didn’t hurt my brain so much to type.
Seeing them live at the Holocene here in Portland, I was tickled to realize so much more was in store. Running through practically every song off their new LP, Bach did nothing to encourage the crowd to dance besides emulate David Byrne’s now-iconic twitch, and the audience, prompted only by the insanely catchy nature of the band’s sound, seemed to intuit that, Hey, if this band is doing what is viscerally required of them, then we should probably do the same. Which isn’t to say that a Body Parts show is workmanlike, but that a Body Parts show works like an efficient microecosystem, as if each person there, including the members of Body Parts, is there for a reason. This isn’t as apparent on record as it is live, just as hearing an announcer on the radio describe an impressive physical act isn’t as clearly astounding as witnessing the act inside a ballpark or stadium. Body Parts make blissfully athletic music, losing so much fat and drag when they’re at full-speed they can’t possibly exist when not in motion. We the audience are the T-Rex eyes, and Body Parts are the clever prey. Or something like that.
So people danced. A lot of people. They pushed forward and got right underneath Bach and bassist (and other full-time member) Alina Cutrono, a duo who wasted not one whiff of extraneous energy, synchronizing a little two-step when a song called for it, or placing a sympathetic hand on their keyboard player’s cheek when it felt right. This, as if to say, “You are so precious to us, too.”
A lot of dancing wasn’t entirely expected given the tenor of the openers, Sama Dams and Animal Eyes, two local acts who, like most bands from Portland hitting the stage at the Holocene, have developed a tight, devoted following who stay tight and devoted to keep their indie darlings close. Portlanders are mighty sensitive, after all, and they’ve seen too many beloved bands leave at the first sign of national notice, so the community that features a revolving incarnation of itself at likeminded venues in town has become borderline incestuous, probably sick and tired of budding artists cutting their teeth on Portland’s scene and then moving to Brooklyn, which is a place all Portlanders resent as a matter of fact. So, a big crowd came out for Sama Dams and Animal Eyes, two acts who skew indie rock and folk in similar but opposite trajectories, the former rubbing their acoustic oddities against a splintery wall of reverb and ambient noise to come out both grinning and bleeding—they were, frankly, stupendous, and their music is really easy to find—and the latter wandering down a more familiar psych-folk route, which was fine enough.
In other words: people will dance to just about anything, and Holocene is best known as a dance club. Yet, that reputation limits just how pristine the sound in the Holocene can get for a band like Body Parts, and, despite the Holocene always choosing community over the art of understanding how a great lineup can be built around a band as versatile as Body Parts, a band like Body Parts could pretty much fit in anywhere. What was first a sparsely populated floor filled by their third song, and Portland fell in love. I wouldn’t be surprised if more than one person told them that night to leave unforgiving L.A. behind and move here. We do that. Hate Brooklyn and tell people to move here. It’s probably pretty annoying, actually.