The lengthy mic check was time enough to fully grasp Real Estate as a physical entity. Back slouched in feeble surrender, Singer-guitarist Martin Courtney shyly tucked his mid-length shag behind his ears. “Check, check, check.” In the background, percussionist Etienne Duguay lumbered back and forth, long legs billowing formal pants. To Courtney’s left, guitarist Matthew Mondanile tuned, gazing through geeky lenses, while bassist Alex Bleeker, on the right, peered from the cool shadow of a baseball cap. Though Real Estate’s members are each from Ridgewood, New Jersey, they seemed to exist in separate realms under Harper’s Ferry’s red stage light – both physically and sonically.
Mondanile began “Fake Blues,” Real Estate’s dedication to Kurt Vile, with pleading, nasal guitar twangs. He bobbed along to his own melody, barely noticing when Courtney added his discrete vocals, frothy and hazy in texture. Guarded by a battle line of three guitarists, Duguay was also engrossed in his own sphere, raining his drumsticks from high above. Often lost as a rhythmic side note, Duguay ensured that his drums had a stand-alone voice, compounding Real Estate’s rich bedrock of sound.
After a well-received song by Mondanile’s solo project Ducktails, Real Estate offered “Suburban Dogs” and a new number to which an audience member candidly exclaimed, “I like that song you just played!” Perhaps that’s all it took for Real Estate to break out of their placeholders.
As “Basement” slowly creeped into a percussion-spattering climax, Mondanile and Bleeker spun inwards, finally acknowledging Duguay’s efforts to dominate the drum-set with his left hand as his right hoisted a maraca miles above his head. By the final song “Beach Comber,” everyone onstage and offstage were eddies of energy, whirling in each other’s personal space; the sudden stop due to technical difficulties could not even halt the current. Instead, the pause allowed time for many of Real Estate’s “Boston!” salute. The song rebooted, all resumed, and amidst an instrumental break, Mondanile stealthily inserted a toast to Boston again. With laughs of surprise and a raised plastic cup, the audience and band roared. Yet another cheer and Real Estate slipped through the stage door, leaving Harper’s Ferry banded, electrified, and wanting for more.
We hope they will return again. Boston!
Photos by Charles Faust