Photo by Julianne Scherker
Vital Stats: Date - July 31st, 9 PM, Location - "The Knitting Factory," a Brooklyn musical bastion of underground cool. Who - The Do
, a French, four-member band of multi-instrumentalists, and that's when the easy fill-in-the-blank answers stop, because attempting to categorize a band this radical, creative, and uninhibited does them a disservice.
After their first song, lead guitarist, pianist, and fearless vocalist Dan Levy took the mic, and smiled shyly as he declared "Thank you, we are so.. what's the word, shy? To be playing in such a famous place."
I'll have to respectfully disagree; there was nothing shy about their live performance. The band could easily settle for just being cute, even twee. They have the necessary ingredients: the dark, doll-like singer, the quirky percussion instruments, including a row of haphazardly-dangling pots and pans, and, of course, the French cosmopolitan appeal that always compels the urban American. But what truly sets this band apart from anyone else you've seen is their sheer musical range. One moment, lead singer Olivia Merilahti croons sadly as Levy's piano hums a scale, until, suddenly, the entire band explodes in a frenzy, as the lead guitarist shouts at the audience and the bassist bang wildly on the ground. It was an absolute roller coaster of a concert, and you couldn't guess what was going to happen next. Never was that more apparent than when a recording of "The Sound of Music's "Do-Re-Mi" inexplicably began to play. Merilahti mouthed along wryly, until, just as abruptly, the band launched into one of their rowdiest rock 'n roll tunes. The utter unpredictability had the entire audience in a trance; every eye was glued to the stage. If they were snake charmers, then we were the most obedient band of rattlesnakes you've ever seen.
And just when you think they're done surprising you, Merilahti starts shouting her lyrics through a neon megaphone. Or maybe the percussionist and guitarist will spontaneously begin a sad jazz saxophone duet, that will somehow morph into a sort of babbling improvisation as Merilahti bangs madly on a single snare drum. The difference between The Do's quirkiness and that of lesser, thought equally peculiar, bands, is that the Do never seems affected. They're not wearing the proverbial Lady Gaga bubble hat of the faux-avant garde. They really are this weird, and their honesty and raw talent makes them the most radical act I've seen.
Lead singer Olivia Merilahti was a virtual Nico-incarnate: her voice was sometimes creepy, often ethereal, and always, always stirring. She looked out at the audience with the impossibly wide eyes of a person possessed.
Maybe you have to see them live to understand. They circle around the stage, almost in a wrestler's fighting stance, like four planets dancing in unison around the same sun, and anybody lucky enough to bear witness to the madness can't help but look on in awe.
Watch "The Do" perform "Slippery Slope" at the Knitting Factory: