Asobi Seksu are officially the duo of Yuki Chikudate on vocals and keyboards and James Hanna on guitars and backing vocals, "plus some friends who help us out" according to their MySpace page; their website lists the current friends as William Pavone on bass and Larry Gorman on drums. I fell in love with the band the last time I saw them, in November 2006, and was happy to see they were returning to Seattle. This time however the show had one simple problem: volume. I started out standing on the floor pretty close to the stage, but I immediately discovered that the guitar feedback howling out of the under-stage speakers completely overwhelmed everything else. I could only barely even tell that Chikudate was singing at all despite her wide-open mouth, and the bass and even drums weren't much more audible. I withstood the onslaught for the first three songs, including their single "New Years", which were played without pause. Finally I'd had enough and decided to try moving to the balcony. I discovered that simply moving to the side of the stage improved the sound levels notably but I headed on upstairs where, standing over the sound booth, the balance was indeed better but the set was still too loud; even with earplugs, I'd just have lost the vocals entirely without notably affecting the volume. I believe this is the first show I've been to at Nectar where the levels were such a problem—certainly it's the first time I've been forced upstairs to enjoy the show—and I'm not sure whether the club or the band are more to blame. Despite all that, once I went upstairs I found the music enjoyable again. They played a few new songs from their next album due out in February, including their just-released single "Me and Mary" which sounded pretty good. My favorite song by them, "Strawberries", also sounded good, which I'd worried about after "New Years" was all but washed out. They closed with "Red Sea", ending with Chikudate whaling on the drums over a guitar feedback loop while the others left the stage, until finally Chikudate left just an empty stage and a feedback loop loud enough that no one bothered to applaud until it ended. It was a good set and I'm glad I was able to catch it, but I hope next time the sound levels are a little more moderate.
Coming up, a review of Saturday's show also at Nectar Lounge featuring DJ Spooky. Also coming up: Halou at Nectar Lounge, Sunday Nov 9; My Brightest Diamond at the Triple Door, Wednesday Nov 19; Yeasayer at Neumos, Thursday Nov 20; and Minus the Bear with Annuals at the Showbox (at the Market), Saturday Nov 22.