Review – tUnE-yArDs @ Rhino’s – Bloomington, IN – 9/28/11

Poppinoff Oct 4th, 2011 | By
Category: Bloomington, Interviews, Los Angeles, Rhino's, Tune Yards, Written Reviews

This review of tUnE-yArDs comes from YTC veteran, Beni Nova. Beni catches a lot of cool shows, and it’s always cool to hear what he thinks about them. If you were at this show, or have ever seen tUnE-yArDs, make sure to comment on this post and let us know what you think, because “When You Tell Concerts…It’s Cooler.”  -lorn

tUnE-yArDs @ Rhino’s Concert Review

For people who see and hear a lot of music, there are a ton of wonderful bands out there to discover with a little bit work. What’s not as common,  is coming across something that’s also truly unique and different. We were treated to just such an experience last week, when tUnE-yArDs came to Bloomington, Indiana and rocked the crowd at Rhino’s.


Photo by: Justin Banks

I had been anticipating this show for a couple of months (along with scores of others),  as news of tUnE-yArDs playing coast-to-coast, at numerous festivals, and across oceans has juiced their popularity.

Rave reviews of their new album, ‘Who Kill,’ and a recent appearance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” didn’t hurt that either! Although I had not seen them in this inception (now with two saxophone players),  I was honored to be treated to a show by Merrill Garbus (the founder) and bassist, Nate Brenner, at a private event in the summer of 2010.  I’ve actually been waiting that long to see them again.


Photo by: Justin Banks

Bloomington is a college town with a thriving music scene and lots of great places to catch a show.  While Rhino’s (an all-ages music club) may have been kind of a surprise pick, there was a deeper layer of meaning here,  as one of the band members had rocked out several times here in his youth.

Two opening bands, Sleeping Bag and Pat Jordache, put on short and good sets. The crowd got warmed up, a couple of sound issues got worked out, and everyone was ready for the headliner!

As tUnE-yArDs headed out on stage, you couldn’t help but notice their brightly colored face paint, maybe some neon clothing, Merrill’s crazy-cool haircut, etc. Like I said, they’re really unique, and musically it gets even deeper.

Merrill is an extremely gifted musician, who uses a technique called “Live-Looping.” It involves her recording a bang on a drum, hit on a cymbal, notes with her voice and other various sounds (all live), then pushing a series of pedals causing those sounds to repeat, forming the drums and structure for the song. If it sounds complicated, it is; and she uses the technique more brilliantly than anyone I’ve seen.


Photo by: Justin Banks

I’m sure that some people don’t even realize how she’s creating these pieces to the songs; it’s easy to be distracted by the ultra-cool sound of her rocking the Electric Ukulele and a voice with a power that’s truly stunning, but for anyone who is paying attention,  it adds an extra rush to see the way she jumps right into composing each track with such detail and precision (and in a way that BUMPS!!). They have the audience moving and grooving from the first hit to the last.

tUnE-yArDs played songs off their latest album “Who Kill,” throwing in one of my favorites, “Hatari,” and satisfying the crowd with two of their biggest hits “Gangsta” and “Bizness.” I don’t think there was one person in the room that wasn’t dancing, singing along, mobbing the stage, or screaming aloud…fanatics!

tUnE-yArDs  just has this quality of getting everyone really into the show! You can feel it.   It was an extremely fun vibe to experience!!

My overall thoughts, are that tUnE-yArDs rocked!  I definitely plan to go see them again and will look forward to seeing what they do next.

The highlight for me was seeing them perform “Bizness,” which is fast becoming one of my favorite new songs. It was around a 7-minute jam-out, and I was fulfilled.  Another highlight worth mentioning again, is just how cool the energy was during their show.  It was like they were having a celebration on stage and have a clear passion for what they’re doing. Check out the video of the very last song they played, and you’ll get an idea! – Beni Nova

Interview w/ Nate Brenner (tUnE-yArDs)


Photo by: Justin Banks

I had some more questions for the members of the band, and was lucky enough to catch up with tUnE-yArDs bassist, Nate Brenner, on the road as they continue touring.

Beni Nova: “How did you and Merrill link up, and start playing music?”

Nate: “We met in 2005 at a summer camp, where we were both instructors. I was teaching Jazz, and Merrill was teaching Theatre. After camp was over, Merrill moved to Montreal, and I moved to Oakland, but we remained friends.

Merrill started a band called Sister Suzy, and she invited me along on a short tour with her. Around this time, Merrill started tUnE-yArDs as just a one-woman band. We would exchange songs and maintained a good long-distance connection.

Fastforward to 2009, and tUnE-yArDs was invited to tour with the Dirty Projectors. This was a definite jump to bigger audiences, and Merill invited me along tour with her yet again – this time as a part of  tUnE-yArDs.

Some people early on were being critical of her technique. I just said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing, it sounds great!’  We were supporting each other all along.”

Beni Nova: “In the last year particularly you’ve been invited to numerous festivals and have played dozens of big shows both here in the U.S. and in Europe.  How has that experience been?

Nate: “Well, the latest tour has really been the best. It’s the first one where we’ve had a dedicated tour manager, who was actually the manager from our European tour, so we brought him over and that’s working out great.

It’s also the first time where people are coming to shows to see us specifically. The crowds sing along and know the words to the songs, and of course, that’s a great feeling.  It’s really a new comfort level we all have. Everything is working so smoothly.

Boston recently was a great show, and of course, playing back here in Bloomington was really special. Bloomington is a great community and so supportive of musicians. Even our tour manager from Ireland said, ‘Bloomington is the best city in America!’”

Beni Nova: “How do you play that bass so damned funky??”

Nate: “Oh, that’s a good question! I’ve studied music most of my life and a draw a lot of inspiration from a bassist named James Jamerson. He was the uncredited bassist on most of Motown Records’ hits in the 1960′s and early 70′s.

I try to learn from his rhythmic ideas and make them my own, because tUnE-yArDs has no official drummer and just uses a loop.  That makes it cool for me, because the bassist has a chance to stand alone and fill things in where I normally couldn’t.

There is no drummer to compete with or get drowned out by, so it’s nice to have a more central role and find cool ways to just complement what Merrill is doing without getting in the way.  I really couldn’t imagine a better band, creatively, to play in as a bassist, it’s very free and fun!”

Beni Nova: Thanks for your time Nate!! You guys are on a serious roll; we look forward to seeing what tUnE-yArDs does next!!

Benny Nova & Friends Twitter: @BennyNova

For more information on tUnE-yArDs visit:

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