"It's nice to play a real show. We were just at the Coachella Festival. This is a lot better," Real Estate frontman Martin Courtney commented about halfway through his band's Tuesday night (April 18) set at the Rickshaw Theatre.
He wasn't simply pandering; he seemed sincere. It's no wonder, since the band's sweetly jangling tunes are far better suited to an intimate theatre than a sweaty, sun-scorched festival field.
At Coachella, the band's unfortunate set time had them overlapping with Kendrick Lamar, New Order and Justice. (Yes, all three.) At the Rickshaw, they were the main attraction, topping a bill that included garage-rock journeyman Tim Cohen and chipper, charmingly goofy Seattle combo iji. Both openers delivered solid sets, but neither were memorable enough to steal any of the attention away from the headliners.
The five members of Real Estate arrived on stage with good-natured hellos to the crowd before easing into "Darling" and "Serve the Song," the same cuts that open the recently released In Mind. These songs were a slight change from the group's usual jangle-rock sound, and featured psychedelic soundscapes of wah-drenched guitars and swirling synth textures.
The reason for the moderate sonic shift can be partly chalked up to the absence of guitarist Matt Mondanile, who left the band last year. Although his tasteful, liquid arpeggios are missed, replacement six-stringer Julian Lynch delivered many standout moments throughout the night. He's a flashier guitarist than the ever-tasteful Mondanile, more inclined to turn the dials on his effects pedals up to the max. His fretboard-exploring solos on older cuts "Had to Hear" and "Green Aisles" turned the songs into sprawling, climactic jams, providing the perfect counterpoint to the wistful nostalgia of Courtney's songwriting.
Real Estate's catalogue doesn't offer much in the way of variety, but the band still managed to include a couple of slight curveballs: bassist Alex Bleeker sung lead vocals on the hippie-folk ditty "Diamond Eyes," and the night's breezy mid-tempos were replaced temporarily by the moody, slow-paced crawl of "Suburban Dogs" (from the band's self-titled 2009 debut).
Towards the end of the hour-plus set, Bleeker double-checked that the crowd did, in fact, want an encore. The answer was a resounding yes, and Real Estate closed with the crowd-pleasing "It's Real."
In a few days, the band will return to California for their sucker's time slot at the second weekend of Coachella. On this night, however, their blissful tunes were rewarded the appreciative response they deserve.