Review: Baths And Braids at The Troubadour

Written by

From KCRW volunteer Sierra Drucker

On Saturday, Baths and Braids graced Los Angeles with the final performance of their month-long tour together.

As I waited in an endless line that wrapped far beyond the corner of Doheny, I couldn’t help but remember it was only a year ago when I first saw Baths perform at a small dumpy club Downtown to an audience I could count on two hands.

Now, thanks to his critically acclaimed debut album, Cerulean, he’s headlining sold out shows.

Just as I finally made my way into the venue, Canadian free-tekno band Gobble Gobble took the stage.  Adorned with glowsticks, tutus, a blanket fashioned into some sort of adult diaper, and not much else, these four boys took over the Troubadour for a multidimensional performance I can only compare to a hardcore Euro-rave.

The crowd was quickly engulfed in a steady wave of pounding kick drums and sweaty half naked boys cavorting to highly choreographed movements with makeshift drums and blowup dolls.  Quite an unexpected surprise, but well played.  They left the room buzzing with anticipation for Braids.

After a methodical transition from dirty house to ambient electro courtesy of DJ Sodapop, Braids began their set with an album favorite, “Glass Deers.”  It’s amazing how sweetly Raphaelle Standell-Preston pulls off such provocative lyrics with a voice so graceful yet powerful.

As the set moved along we were transported to a sonic wonderland of sorts.  Layers of ethereal loops and enchanting vocals floated by, tethered only by Austin Tufts precise and evocative drumming.  Following the band’s lead, we willingly surrendered to the music, losing ourselves in the soundscape.  As someone who fell in love with their 2011 album, Native Speaker, I was more than pleased to discover their live performance is even better.

At last, Baths, aka Will Weisenfeld, took the stage with a modest setup.  A fold out table topped with his laptop, Ableton, and a few scattered tea lights.  He explained that he was feeling emotionally charged to be playing this final show with Braids, and he hoped he could give us an epic performance.  He did not disappoint.

If you have heard Cerulean, then you know the album is filled with vascillating beats atop generous layers of samples.  Watching him perform this challenging music is a lot like watching a classically trained pianist perform Rachmaninoff.

His hands move so fast at times you just see a cloud of energy.  He bounces along to an indiscernible beat, somehow keeping track of the rhythm.  I was so entranced by the visuals that I had to close my eyes to take in the music.  When I did, I realized he wasn’t just giving us Cerulean, he was actually improvising over it.  It’s no wonder he worked up a sweat.  At the end of his 45 minute set, I left the show gleefully astounded and content with the knowledge that Baths newfound recognition is, in fact, well deserved.

— Sierra Drucker