Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Sunday, May 27, 2018

Bear in Heaven play cramped high energy show at Black Cat

Halfway through their set at Black Cat Backstage, Bear in Heaven lead singer John Philpot left his post at the keyboard and urged the crowd to dance with him. Bear in Heaven's performance was all about creating an atmosphere conducive to its beat-heavy electronic tracks, with a fog machine and flashing lights transforming the Black Cat's backstage into a low-rent rave.

Drummer Joe Stickey's driving beats, combined with laid-back vocals provided an alluring draw towards the dance floor. The band’s synth heavy sound is reminiscent of ‘80s pop but combines it with layered guitar and bass that edges more on the side of trance rock.

This style gave the concert a flowing set, with the songs melting into one another. In a larger venue, this would have worked to their advantage, providing an endless dance vibe. In the cramped corner of the Black Cat, the urge to dance was harder to fulfill. As the band's movement-inspiring sound took over, it was easy to catch each band member dancing and enjoying themselves while most of the crowd settled for head bobbing.

The interactions with the crowd were where Bear in Heaven shined. Philpot started off by calling the crowd "cute, collectively" and continued to be entertaining throughout the show. His constant jokes about drinking tequila and the band's earlier trouble with its van provided laughs between marathon dance sessions.

If the venue was more suited to their thriving wall of sound, Bear in Heaven would have been a show to come home exhausted from. Confined to Black Cat Backstage, it felt overly contained, and its sound couldn't properly envelop the audience.

With its focused synth sound and relaxed attitude, Bear in Heaven showed the audience at the Black Cat that there was nothing it’d like more than a full fledged dance party, even if it meant forcing it into a small space.

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