If you’re curious about Wye Oak’s impression of Istanbul: “I feel like we’ve been tricked into being on some reality TV show where they take an American band, and stuff them full of meat, and cheese…and bread [the crowd cheers], and then see if they can still play a show.”
This week on So You Think You Can Stuff Your Face and Then Make Music, Wye Oak pulled it off, treating IKSV Salon to some rich vocals and thrumming guitar, courtesy of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack. Salon’s a great venue for a fairly laid-back band like this. Wye Oak is more low-key-swaying than dance-party-fiesta, and the audience stood patient and attentive, with others ringing the balcony above, hanging their legs through the metal bars to swing above the heads of the crowd below. Wasner covered vocals and guitar, with Stack in his owly glasses manning percussion and the wily third bandmate, the laptop, who apparently was not up to the Istanbul challenge—but more on that in a minute.
Wye Oak is a bit of earnest indie rock with some dreamy shoegaze flare, placing it somewhere between the hazy floating of Beach House and the surprising kinetics of The Antlers. Though I was only passingly familiar with the band before attending, it was easy to enjoy the atmosphere they established. Wasner brings a lot of controlled energy, while Stack impressively plays percussion with his feet and right hand, his left hand covering the bass line on keyboard. And, if you’ll let me take a deep drink from my glass of feminist enthusiasm for a minute here, it was damn gratifying to watch a woman shred, as a woman rocking the electric guitar is not something I get to see enough in Turkey (or outside Turkey, for that matter). They met love from the crowd, as well, as the intimacy of the Salon venue allowed for plenty of communication between band and audience—a couple I Love You’s, and one extended conversation where a nice man asked if the song “Holy Holy” was on their setlist (it was!), and then went on to explain that if they didn’t play it, he would have to follow them back to the States. Thanks, mildly creepy music aficionado!
Wye Oak treated us all to some songs from their upcoming album Shriek, slated for an April release, which sounded fantastic and perhaps more aggressive than their past work. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the first technical problems surfaced. Maybe half an hour into the show, the lights seemed to dim and some electric components went out on stage. From where I sat, I could see the keyboard and computer lights flicker and start back up again. Wasner apologized as they rebooted and continued—only to have it happen again a couple songs later. A clearly frustrated Wasner cursed cautiously, thanked us all for our patience, and made it up to us by playing what turned out to be a treat and perhaps my favourite song of the show—the subdued “Doubt,” played by Wasner alone as Stack tried to fiddle with the electronics and keep the show going. I would have liked to hear more of this, in fact, as her voice is so strong it can easily carry a song alone, though of course the bass from Stack’s setup was always a welcome chest thump.
After a brief post-Doubt break, they tried one more time, with a powerful song from “Civilian” that grabbed everyone’s attention once again as they seemed to thrash out their frustration with electronics, jetlag, and American-European converter plugs. After which, the setup promptly crashed again. I felt sorry for the two, who were clearly doing their best and were terribly frustrated, trying to keep us all engaged while still messing with the tech that thwarted them.
Ultimately, their commitment to overcoming technical issues gave us, I think, a unique performance that they didn’t plan to give. Their vulnerability and commitment to delivering a great show put us all firmly on their side despite the waiting, and I have to say that I look forward to the upcoming Shriek — even if there are some long, glitchy pauses between tracks.