Bauer, Red Eyed Fly, Friday 16
Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., March 16, 2001
Red Eyed Fly, Friday 16
In the course of day-to-day living, technology often seems to bite us on the ass at the most inopportune times. Your cell battery dies in the middle of a conversation, your hair dryer bites the dust when you're primping for a date, and your equipment goes haywire when you decide to fly across the ocean to play a South by Southwest showcase. Such was the case with Bauer Friday night. At 8:15pm, the Amsterdam quartet was still working to synchronize their somewhat precious mix of samples, synthesizers, and live instrumentation. And if you've heard the expansive Burt Bacharach/Jimmy Webb-styled synth-pop melodies on Bauer's Can't Stop Singing (Wabana/Surefire), you couldn't blame them for being meticulous. Formed by former Bettie Serveert drummer Berend Dubbe, who now plays keyboards and sings, Bauer originally began as a four-track living room project before evolving into a duo with keyboardist/vocalist Sonja Van Hamel. Live, the group includes guitarist/sample king Frank Van Pragg and drummer Wim Kwakman. Performing their music in sync with intricate pre-recorded background arrangements was a formidable challenge, but doing this gave Bauer an organic immediacy that would've been absent if the group had played it safe and just sung along to tracks. Highlights of the mishap-condensed show included "Western Trail," the lazy and vast retro-futuristic cowboy song that leads off Can't Stop Singing. Another winning number was "I'm Starting a War With Dolphins," an adult-sounding melody coupled with a less-mature premise inspired by Dubbe's bad experience at the petting zoo. Perhaps the best moment of the evening came when Dubbe and Van Hamel coupled for warm, monosyllabic harmonies on a film-score-styled instrumental that ended with a blazing Moog solo. Unfortunately, all that setup time cost Bauer. Without the ability to rework their set list spontaneously, their performance ended abruptly after seven or eight songs like a sexual escapade interrupted by cops with flashlights. The crowd didn't even know they were done until they started packing their gear. The looks on their faces seemed to say "We came all the way here for this?" and one couldn't help but feel sorry for them. It was a textbook case of good music being overwhelmed by tenuous software.