Once again we return to the ongoing chronicles of "Whether to Catch the Opening Act." With the dream-pop neo-disco reverberations of Twin Sister, the potentiality of what kind of band they would ask to go on tour with them is too oddly diverse to consider. Usually it wouldn't have been a big factor for me, but I love the Doug Fir so I was more motivated than usual to head out early on a Monday. However, 'early' is certainly a relative term, so I did miss the local PDX outfit, Pure Bathing Culture. I walked in just as Ava Luna hit the stage though, and was warmly enraptured by the quick cycle of instinctual criticism that ran through me. My first reaction was: band from Brooklyn, nerdy front-man in sweater, cute background singers, multiple synthesizers on stage, and a twelve-dollar Casio from 1987 -- please turn to page 4 of your hipster band how-to manual. Then the vocal harmonies struck me. They were brilliant and beautiful, much like that Dirty Projectors vibe. Next I noticed that the bass player looked like he was 12. Then I realized the rhythmic intricacies he was locking in with the drummer. Then Carlos Hernandez started nailing his quasi-falsettos vocals, the songs kept hitting these killer beat-drops, and I totally got it and realized what a prejudice asshole I can be when I see music sometimes. Anyway, the band was incredible. Think Midnight Vultures era Beck, but with a little more of that early 80's post-punk feel. Hernandez dances in a rather convulsionary Byrne-esque manner, but the sincerity of his gyrations are obvious and beam with the hidden pride of successful sonic originality. This is the kind of band that most everyone could enjoy -- dreamy flannel-dwellers, electric crushers, ass-bounce funksters, and the quiet folk who smirk in the corners.
Twin Sister then emerged with a girthy Floyd-like drone, and it became apparently clear what separated them from the opening act -- they were much more in control of the sound patches on their keyboards. I kept thinking that Ava Luna should ask to borrow their laptop set-up. Yet other than that, Twin Sister failed to provide a headlining set worthy of following their openers. Now they are most definitely an intentionally odd group, but there was a distance from the crowd that never seemed to shrink as their set went on. It seemed many in the crowd were only there and waiting for their chill-disco favorite, "All Around and Away We Go" -- many excitedly sat up from their previous perches for it, only to re-acclimate to the wall after it ended. That tune has never really been the go-to example of their sound, but it seemed many in the crowd were disheartened by their subsequent drift-offs none-the less. The band itself has thickened up a lot since I last saw them in 2010, as their low-ends have gained much more power and self-confidence. But on the other hand, front-woman Andrea Estella looked incredibly thin and her voice echoed a likewise sentiment. At times, she seemed lost in debate over whether to sing in her natural voice or as though she was raised in an Icelandic elf-village. Collectively, this loss of identity is what plagued the rest of the performance. It's fine to switch from drone to dream-pop to disco-party to psychedelic freak-out, but there was a serious lack of flow or cohesion. It's like all the puzzle piece were right there and lined up, they just needed to be locked in to place. They did close the set with a sonic freak-out that sounded like Yo La Tengo performing "Careful with That Axe, Eugene," and it somehow did serve as the ideal capstone to an odd hour's worth of musical motion. Leaving the venue though, I couldn't wait to go home and listen to the Ava Luna EP I had in my back pocket.