Best Friends Forever, it turns out, are basically just too animated to be captured in still photography. They’re just not made for the format: too energetic, too exhilarating for the static image. The results aren’t just uninspiring compared to their actual presence on stage, but seem actively incorrect, each moment meaningless and unfamiliar once out of its proper chronological sequence. Of course, they’d probably capture just fine if they weren’t pouring every bit of themselves and their attention into the songs, but they are pouring every bit of themselves and their attention into the songs, belting out brisk counter melodies, or snatching recorders from the floor to play the bridge, or flitting fingers from guitar strings to keyboard, or somehow handling drums and glockenspiel at the same time. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. In related news, central BFFs Bri and Jes have an ease and familiarity and chemistry on stage and in their body language and in the looks they exchange (see: the “thank you” in closer “handpocket” — closer before about three encores, at least) they have a manner that lends credence the main premise of their band name, and just adds to their near overwhelming likability. Their songwriting is sound, the instrumental facility and fluidity is there, backing those songs up all the way, but ultimately it’s that sense of all-pervading charm that makes them nearly impossible not to respond to. Even if I don’t have the photos to prove it now (besides the one of that one guy who just would not stop leaping in the air — he has to be evidence of something amazing).
Puttin’ on the Ritz is sort of the opposite: Shea and Rubin’s unkempt variations on the standards almost always make for fantastic captured images, but are harder to describe in a way that does them justice. For instance, the part of the set that I failed to photograph came at the very end, when drummer Kevin Shea grabbed one of the metal bowls he’d been playing with all along, shoved it down his pants, and executed a final drum solo on his crotch. See, visual illustration would be much better. And so I will let pictures do the rest of the talking here.
Filling out the set, we got bits by Acht(en) — an experimental instrumental duo of whom I know little besides that they’re an offshoot of the Good Good in some way, and that their finesse and timbrel adventurousness made them a solid introduction to the night — and New Brunswick, NJ punk band Screaming Females. From the songs I’d heard before, the primary elements of the SFs seemed to be 1. the eponymously forceful lead vocals and 2. guitar licks, moving from classic riffs to heavy feedback fills, much more varied and interesting than those usually needed to back such vocals. I had assumed these elements were coming from different members, and that singer Marissa would be the sort who keeps her hands free to grip a mic and rage through the audience. As such, I was startled to find that our leading lady was not only belting out her words with a force incongruous to her small stature, but also handling all those afore-noted fantastic lead guitar parts. And so the performance, with everyone pretty focused on their instruments, came off as somewhat restrained, but all the sonically stronger for it.