Real Estate/The Babies/Herzog at Beachland Ballroom on January 21, 2012:
Three separate shows in 2010 – supporting the likes of Woods, Kurt Vile, and Deerhunter – did nothing to deter Clevelanders from wanting more out of New Jersey band Real Estate. On Saturday night, the band headlined a sold-out Beachland Ballroom.
Since we last checked in, Real Estate added a keyboardist, replaced their drummer, and singer/guitarist Martin Courtney refined his former long-haired look, possibly as a gag during a dramatic reading of The Rape of the Lock. But they’ve also refined their sound on their sophomore album Days, the 4th best album of 2011 by my count.
During an hour-long set, the band put their monochromatic tunes to the test, proving different shades of a single color can still be exciting. “Green Aisles” eased along effortlessly before the set escalated later on with “It’s Real,” which fronts a joyous crowd sing-along chorus.
Bassist Alex Bleeker got his big moment on “Wonder Years,” taking over chief songwriting and vocal duties, which both Bleeker and members of the crowd were giddy about. Meanwhile, as with his Ducktails project, Matt Mondanile colored slightly outside the lines with a squiggly guitar solo.
Real Estate peppered the set with a B-side, “Exactly Nothing,” from their next 7-inch single release, and with a new song, "In My Car," that unsurprisingly wasn’t a departure for the band. And, of course, they also dipped back into their 2009 self-titled debut, most notably on “Suburban Beverage” for the encore.
Real Estate’s tourmates, the Babies, were an obvious choice; the band features fellow Brooklyn-by-way-of-Jersey musician Cassie Ramone (Vivian Girls) and former labelmate Kevin Morby (Woods). One of their best guitar riffs merely rides the waves of Wire’s “Strange,” and overall, they come off something like the punk band X reimagined for the lo-fi indie set.
Cleveland band Herzog were tapped as the opening act, and are often pegged as ‘90s-style indie rock a la Guided by Voices and Built to Spill, but they know a little about at least two other years in musical history: They performed a cover of the Three O’Clock’s “I Go Wild” from 1982, an obscure power-pop tune, and injected a lyrical/bassline nod to “Walk on the Wild Side” within an original song. Unlike the hazy nostalgia of Real Estate, Herzog’s influences ring loud and clear, likely winning them over some new fans.