words by Jacob Sprecher
photo by Terence Hofstad
NOVEMBER 11 — Getting out of town and going to a show on short notice is pretty much always a good thing. Such was the case for myself on Friday. I’d already planned to be in the Bay for the weekend, and at the last second noticed that Real Estate was headed to Slim’s. Familiar with them? Real Estate is a Brooklyn-based five-piece that originally hailed from Ridgewood, New Jersey. They put out their self-titled debut on Woodsist in 2009, and just recently dropped Days on Hardly Art. Knowing the group only by name until about a month and a half ago when Days showed up on my desk, I’ve become totally enraptured from that time since. Stylistically, calling Real Estate dreamy is an understatement—they’re about as silky smooth as humanly possible. If vintage reverb chambers were a liquid, Real Estate would bath in it daily. Galaxie 500? You bet.
Opening the show was Big Troubles, curiously also from Ridgewood. Their second LP, Romantic Comedy, was put out by Oakland-based Slumberland in late September; it harkens to love-sick ‘80s pop a la the Cure, as well as C-86 twee from across the pond and longtime L.A. heroes the Black Watch. A fine band and a fine album, Big Troubles played a respectable, though underwhelming 35-minute set. While Romantic Comedy is certainly a good record, something about their live execution lacked. Most of it boiled down to co-frontmen Alex Craig and Ian Dennan not having a whole lot of staying power. Neither was particularly cocksure from a vocal standpoint, and while the band was at its best with Dennan singing lead, they just didn’t gel on the whole. For example: “Time Bomb,” a Romantic Comedy standout, came off as flat, devoid of the sultry flair from the LP. Maybe it was just an off night…hard to say.
Real Estate bore none of the same qualities. For all their grace and ease in musicianship, the band manages to equal that in stage demeanor, perhaps a testament to their suburban upbringing (which is to say they aren’t snotty). Lead vocalist/guitarist Martin Courtney and bassist Alex Bleeker brought a casual presence that was both felt and heard as Real Estate kicked into their set in front of the packed house at Slim’s. Rightfully proud of Days, the band dove into new material straight away. “Green Aisles” rang particularly true early on, with Courtney dreamily painting the picture (“I rode right past the train tracks…”). The instrumental breeze “Kinder Blumen” slotted nicely, and crowd participation on “It’s Real” (for which I bought the 7”) was warm and receptive. Courtney turned lead vocals over to Bleeker for Days’ sleeper hit “Wonder Years,” whose relationship-based sentiment “No I’m not okay, but I guess I’m doin’ fine” speaks volumes. The second half of the set prominently featured a pair of covers: “Sunlight Bathed The Golden Glow” by British post-punk/pop outfit Felt, and “Video Life” by semi-obscure English session guitarist Chris Spedding; the latter being dedicated during the encore to Shayde Sartin of the Fresh & Onlys, who enjoyed himself to the fullest just right of the stage.