Though only the four members of psychedelic rock group Grizzly Bear took the stage June 9 in Bloomington’s Buskirk-Chumley Theater, they sounded like an army.
The Brooklyn band’s buzz has severely snowballed since its latest album, Veckatimest, was released last month, and its set proved the hype worthwhile.
To a sold-out college crowd, Grizzly Bear unleashed more than an hour of its haunting, obsessively orchestrated chamber pop. Band founder and vocalist Edward Droste’s ethereal melodies, harmonized with guitarist Daniel Rossen, gave each song a deeply personal touch — one couple even began to slow dance during “Cheerleader” — but Rossen’s guitar bursts were thunderous.
That mixture (Christopher Bear’s drumming amplifying Rossen’s massive, forceful sound; bassist Chris Taylor’s flute and oboe reinforcing Droste’s quiet subtlety) captured the crowd while allowing fans to get lost inside their heads.
That’s not an easy task, and as the band swept through the piano-led bounce of “Two Weeks” and the crawling swell of “Knife,” it became obvious why Grizzly Bear’s been compared to other mind-melters like Radiohead and Animal Collective.
But while there’s an almost overwhelming seriousness to Grizzly Bear’s music, the band members were anything but austere.
“It’s been four years since we’ve played Bloomington,” said Droste. “And I’m sure some of the eight people that were here last time came tonight.”
Tunes like “While You Wait For the Others,” with its churning guitars, plodding bass and delicate chorus, seemed constantly on the edge of imploding. That’s how Grizzly Bear, a band featuring a harp and a clarinet at times, manages to hit harder than any heavy metal act out there. By building walls of intensity from a foundation of whispers — only to let it crumble, song after song, on top of the audience — the band has cultivated one of the most exciting and emotionally draining shows in the indie scene.
While so many bands are busy finding beauty in chaos, Grizzly Bear is searching for chaos in beauty. And in Bloomington last night, they certainly found it.