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Dirty Beaches & Heavy Times played Schubas (D.B. pics)

words by Holly Grey, photos by James Chadwick

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Chicago-based band, Heavy Times took the stage at 9pm last night to a modest but attentive crowd at Schubas. They barreled through their set, coming off as loud, messy and engaging, with very little conversation in between. The distorted guitar rang out over their farewell, a half-hearted plea to stay in touch. While the set was ultimately a little forgettable, the pairing of Heavy Times with Vancouver-based Dirty Beaches was undoubtedly a good decision.

Dirty Beaches is a one-man show, comprised of Alex Zhang Hungtai, a jangly guitar, and some hypnotic pre-recorded loops. As he took the stage last night, the crowd fell silent, with only a few whispered exclamations of excitement. With his tall frame, 1950s slicked back hair and quiet demeanor, Alex himself sets the mood before he even plays a note. He launched right into his first song, beginning with the looped percussion and guitar melody, then intermitted, his guitar and vocals over. His songs have an almost meditative quality to them; the repeating loops loud, pulsing and unforgiving create an undercurrent that pulls in everyone around it. The crowd bobbed in unison while Alex’s intermittent vocals drifted overhead.

Midway through the set, Alex started in on some newer material, now incorporating a lovely 1950s lilt into the melodies. “Lord Knows Best,” his newest single (and obvious fan favorite) was a perfect example of this new style, with its fuzzy piano melody under Alex’s crooning vocals.

Curved over his guitar and hand-held microphone, Alex doesn’t seem like a typical front man. He plays to himself as much as he plays to the audience; lost in the music. Somehow, though, it works for Dirty Beaches, as understated as his music. His last chords rang out, and after several heartfelt thank you’s, he left the stage to an enthusiastic applause.

Head below to view more photos of Dirty Beaches‘ set.

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