[Photo courtesy of Plesserchick]
Words by Arye Dworken
Legend goes, Justin Vernon went into a wintered forest and found a secluded log cabin home where, depressed and sheltered, he recorded Bon Iver’s debut album For Emma, Forever Ago. It’s a stunning record, but man, it’s a bummer. Guy sounded like he wanted nothing more than to down a bottle of Jack and pass out in his armchair while a Nicolas Sparks novel fell from his limp hand. But a few nights back, Vernon’s blue-eyed soul/funk side project Gayngs–a collective fronted/founded by Ryan Olson–sashayed into town and ostensibly re-branded the part-time folkie into a frontman joker, an Autotuned seducer, and best of all, a realized Kanye West collaborator. And the twelve childhood friends on stage did something pretty uncommon within the confines of the Music Hall of Williamsburg: they had a pretty awesome time.
The band’s first record Relayted is no joke, a representative of the label assures me. And if the covers throughout the night were an indicator, then the label guy’s right. Sade’s “By Your Side,” George Michael’s “One More Try,” Godley & Creme’s “Cry,” and the Alan Parsons Project’s “Eye In the Sky,” all reinvented and reinvigorated by the group, played out like the soundtrack to the prom I never went to (however, one skeptic left early telling me he felt very confused by what was happening on stage, and another exclaimed “WTF?”). The Faith cover, in particular, came across as so sincere and naked, despite it’s singer wearing a hooded sweatshirt with a reptile eyes on the hood and a thorny spine running down the back, women cooed and cheered. I firmly believe in the seductive power of the ballad.
Gayngs isn’t a brilliant concept, but it is brilliant delivery. There’s something truly palpable about witnessing a band enjoy one anothers’ company and then channeling that camaraderie into the sound. The live versions of the songs dripped with tenderness and pleather culminating into yacht rock anthems for the T-Pain generation. If that makes you gag, then this isn’t for you. But for those of you who still, to this day, enjoy listening to the original versions of the songs mentioned above and feel like indie rock is a bummer, this is the live show of the year. Chalk one up for the white boy, Wild Cherry be damned.