By the time the synth-heavy band took the carpet, Bardot was nearly full of both people who were clearly there for the show and others who clearly were not. Right from the start, Philpot danced about in a borderline-goofy manner and seemed to make it his personal mission to give everyone a good time. The band engulfed the crowd with heavily textured pieces equal parts groovy bass, pounding drums, airy vocals, and sweeping synth.
People in the audience seemed in awe of each band member individually at separate times. “That drummer is amazing,” one guy declared after watching Joe Stickney’s elaborate beats for an entire song. Another intently stared at Philpot’s synth-work, miming each of the frontman’s presses of his sampling machine.
Guitarist Adam Wills hopped around enthusiastically for most of the set, once nearly throwing his guitar above his head. At one point, he even hit a couch-residing woman with his instrument, possibly in the face. But she didn’t seem to mind. If anything, it got her off the couch to dance.
While Wills took over synthesizer duties on “The Reflection of You”, a single off of Bear In Heaven’s latest album, I Love You It’s Cool, Philpot removed the microphone from the stand and approached a couple of chatty girls who had their backs to the stage and himself. He serenaded the oblivious non-observers with such contextually ironic lyrics as “If you come dance with me, I think you will like my moves” and “Here I am/There you are/Just inches away/But still too far.” The girls were apparently too into their loud conversation to notice this gesture.
Later Philpot again playfully berated some people with their backs to him, but this time with his words instead of his performance. He said, “I’m looking at your backs all night, what did we do wrong? Engage in the community, guys.”
Despite the few bad apples, the band seemed to enjoy the crowd. They occasionally exchanged high-fives, fist bumps, and sincere thank yous. “Fuck Cleveland,” the band said without explanation at one point. They played in Cleveland the night before but, based on that comment, had a better time in Miami. Understandable.
Philpot dedicated the closing song, “Wholehearted Mess”, to his mother, who was in the crowd, sitting on a couch right in front of his synth setup. The song’s bendy Modest Mouse-sounding guitar riff intro got the crowd pumped for the ensuing three minutes. “And don’t forget to forget my name/This is the last song your mom will sing,” shouted Philpot. A few cries of “Encore!” followed, but Philpot shook his head and hands no.
This was probably for the best. Bear In Heaven’s albums are no slaves to catchy singles, and the same applies to their live show: Best enjoyed in a continuous flow with very few breaks for air.
Related link: Interview with Bear In Heaven guitarist Adam Wills
Alex Broadwell is a North Carolina native, photographer, and video dude who currently lives in Miami. To view his work, visit alexbroadwell.virb.com.