Rubblebucket at Williamsburg Music Hall – November 18
Words: Chadbyrne R. Dickens
Photos: Tamara Lee
“We are serious, never mysterious, we’re just the chromed up lubed up image of ourselves” exclaims Kalmia Traver within the stanza of Silly Fathers. Many in attendance at Rubblebucket’s sold-out show in Brooklyn earlier this month could recognize these patented quirky and contagious party bounce-athon anthems. The show marked the band’s umpteenth show in 2012 including stops at numerous festivals including Bonnaroo, Catskill Chill and All Good. The band provides a sound wide in depth and scope by exhibiting raw emotion while pounding power and displaying original creative energy. At a show, one may easily escape to whatever fantasy land the band may escort you towards that particular evening.
[All Photos by Tamara Lee]
Rubblebucket was founded by musical and life couple, Alex Toth (trumpet) and Annakalmia Traver (lead vocals, baritone sax) after they met in music class at the University of Vermont nearly 10 years ago. The current band has garnered respect as one of the most diverse and creative bands in the land and includes Adam Dotson (trombone), Darby Wolf (Hammond B3, Juno, Moog, Clavinet), Craig Myers (percussion), Ian Hersey (guitar), Dave Cole (drums) and Jordan Brooks (bass).
Having relocated to Brooklyn, it was apropos that the final stop of their local tour (with six more shows scheduled elsewhere this year) would take place at the Williamsburg Music Hall, the local definitive music venue for indie rock acts. Sitting alone during a telling one hour sound check, I witnessed a slice of the hard work it takes to be the quintessential party band. The brass section impressed with a vast vocal range and luscious harmonies during the warm-ups and stretching exercises. Traver periodically sat center stage to meditate and presumably find “that place” where she likes to be in preparation for a performance.
Despite another year of heavy touring, the band took the stage with their usual kinetic energy. The mic stands were adorned with pink and yellow scarves and the light show swirled in a psychedelic array of multi-colored bright patterns. The adventure had begun. Traver wore red thigh-high socks beneath jean shorts, a peace sign tattoo on her shoulder and a t-shirt with a fake hand adorned over each breast. Rubblebucket attacked the full Hall on Worker with no warm-up necessary as the crowd immediately bought into the prancing, pounding and bouncing. The front quarter of the house was stuffed with “Bucketheads” who screamed every lyric to Silly Fathers as the contagious ditty took the mood to one of elation.
The band is effective as a party band because layers of sound are impeccably layered upon each other for a complimentary tone. The addition of the brass section to the standard set up of four provides a deeper sound and when Kalmia throws down the mic to rip on her baritone sax, one is witnessing a real badass on the pipes.
Kalmia and her band mates are always open to on-stage miscues during a performance – whether a mic doesn’t work for a few moments or they are searching for a new place to go during a tune and Traver darts off searching for a new instrument or object, insightful fans witness a vulnerability from a band not afraid to take risks or push boundaries for the sake of a greater reward.
During the set, the band unleashed huge silver robots on the crowd (I discovered that the humans wearing the robot outfits are chosen among fans pre-show.) The robots are only part of the original and fresh ways the band entertains the audience. With a consistent flashing of a strong strobe light, Alex and Adam jerk about in frenetic robotic motions, reminiscent of David Byrne, another creative artsy fellow with roots in art and clearly an influence on this band. The strobe lights were affected during an eerie interlude that was reminiscent of an adventure with Scooby Doo in the Mystery Machine searching for an elusive mad man on a foggy night. Silly Father’s had three people dancing in metallic sleeping bags that creepily brought to mind the line, “I see dead people.”
The crowd reached a palpable peak during the band’s most popular song, the one they played on national TV on Kimmel, She Came Out of a Lady. Ms. Traver’s face may suggest an image of an older and edgier sister to Kristen Stewart, but her style and the band’s sound suggests a Blondie for the new millennium (they sometimes cover Heart of Glass) with a splash of Siouxsie and the Banshees, as the infectious rhythms persuaded even the biggest curmudgeon to smile or dance.
Despite Hersey’s gapped-tooth smile, his outward appearance and guitar chops brought to mind an early John Mayer and he provides an important foundation for the antics displayed by his brass section cohorts and Traver. Although there was screaming throughout the show, I had almost never heard it sound so good. During these anthems, Traver often holds a long note on vowels, allowing them to float and permeate the air in a manner which facilitates consistent fan participation.
One minute Traver is crawling on the ground ala Jim Morrison, and by the end of the show she is being carried across adoring sweaty fans while surfing the crowd after a stage dive. Kalmia even kicked a balloon off the stage like a pro. Rubblebucket’s energy is raucous and relentless as they are a band that challenges their audience to have as much fun as they do. When the band stomped up and down on stage, the crowd quickly followed their lead. Many songs simply induce audience participation with unfamiliar arrangements that make you feel as if the stage is about to lift off into orbit.
Chants of “One more song! One more song!” preceded the band reconvening for a love fest encore. With 18 people on stage, including the entire band and crew, former bass player Russell Flynn added further depth by playing a mean sousa, and a stellar sax solo was delivered by Drew Sayers of John Brown’s Body (to which Alex and Kalmia were once members.) It was strange to see more people on stage than Earth Wind and Fire and one female band member holding a pair of pink panties. The band and crew on stage hugged and kissed each other with true passion as it marked the end of a round of hard work. It was clear the audience soaked up the honest emotion.
After an arduous year of heavy travelling and the release of an EP, I asked Traver what her goal was for the band. She said, “We’ve always wanted to work hard enough to headline a stadium gig.” Her dreams just may come true, so I’d advise you to go see Rubblebucket in an intimate venue any chance you can as it may be your last chance. After Roth fumbled his microphone, Kalmia exclaimed, “Alex lost his mic and got transported to a different dimension.” Rubblebucket may be that magical band which can take us to another dimension – maybe even that mythical land, where The Jetsons sang Eep Opp Ork Ah-ah, that as children we only dreamed of reaching.
Set List: Worker, Bikes, Silly Fathers, Oooh Wa, Triangular Daisies, L’Homme, Pain from Love, Oversaturated, Don’t Exaggerate, Breatherz (Young as Clouds), Came Out of a Lady, Encore: Vox