Vivian Darkbloom at the Royale, Boston

Vivian Darkbloom at the Royale, Boston

TONIGHT: Vivian Darkbloom @ the Middle East Upstairs, with Seven Shades Of Grey, Hannah & The Bloodlines, and See Green

I’m going to profile one band this week, Boston’s Vivian Darkbloom. I had the pleasure of seeing them perform with The Airborne Toxic Event last week, in a special ‘invite only’ show, part of Jack Daniel’s Studio No. 7 series. I was going to do the review first, tell you how much I enjoyed these ace musicians and technology geeks from MIT and Harvard, and then give some background and highly recommend their upcoming show at the Middle East as part of my ‘Boston Bands This Week’ feature. But I had a problem. As soon as I began to wade through my 140 photos and 10 videos, I came to a realization: if you’re a Boston band and you’d like this particular reviewer to give you some blog love in a timely fashion (they’re playing the Middle East Upstairs Wednesday night) it might not be the best idea to perform on the same bill as Airborne Tox. So I’ll have this serve “double duty” – a few words about Vivian Darkbloom’s powerful set at the Royale to an appreciative audience, and a mini-profile/show preview.

Wednesday, April 14

Team Shred presents: Seven Shades Of Grey, Hannah & The Bloodlines, Vivian Darkbloom, and See Green (from L.A.) @ the Middle East Upstairs – Wednesday April 14.

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It’s always an iffy proposition for an opening act, especially when you’re supporting a band with a developing rabid fan base like The Airborne Toxic Event. Add to that the odd circumstance of a promotional event for a whiskey company which includes a few free drinks to contest winners, and you have the makings for a potential disaster. But Vivian Darkbloom truly rose to the occasion, and the assembled Airborne fans really enjoyed them. I had read a little beforehand about the band and Rob Morris’ love of guitar and all things techy, resulting in his unique “Wii Guitar” – a marriage of revered rock tradition and the gaming generation. So I expected something interesting and out of the ordinary, and I definitely got that. But what I also got were some very nicely constructed and pretty-sounding indie pop tunes with thoughtful, intelligent lyrics.

“I loved our cold war.
We never had to speak.
We lived like communist darlings.
I loved our cold war.
We never had to mean
what we said.
We spoke like our government.”
– Cold War

They have a humble, low-key and engaging quality as well, which is a nice counterbalance to any intellectual elitism, real or imagined, that might come from their technology geek pedigree.

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Here’s a tiny taste of Rob and his Wii guitar:

If you like that, hunt around on YouTube, as I’m sure there’s lots more. The Wii Guitar generated a lot of excitement when it made its first appearance on their 2008 single “Cold War”, with features in The Boston Globe, USAToday.com, Wired.com, Engadget.com, and Gizmodo.com. Boston music blog Ryan’s Smashing Life covered the band back in 2008 while Rob was still working on his creation.

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Some backround info… Founders Rob Morris (vocals, guitar) and Brian Skerratt (bass, vocals) met at Princeton University, and they’re currently in graduate programs at MIT and Harvard. Rob’s time spent playing around with electric guitars at the MIT Media Lab is what led to the creation of the Wii Guitar, which allows him to alter the sound based on the guitar’s orientation. They continue to explore technological possibilities, but as Rob says, they pride themselves in “making music that emphasizes simple song writing over anything else.” Modern ideas and innovation, but with a traditional core. Nice.

Here’s an interview with Rob and Brian from CMJ 2008:

About their name: “Vivian Darkbloom is a pseudonym for the novelist Vladimir Nabokov, a writer who loved controversy, intrigue, and continually thwarting the expectations of his readers. The band borrowed this name in homage to Nabokov (whom they love), and also as a nod to the simple idea of an alter-ego; the band, while riotous and raucous onstage, are in fact shy and bookish offstage.” (from their official site)

“We saw you loading guns, while preaching to your young.
Hey, what does it matter – you love God and opium.
And your followers are soldiers and they’re standing on the shoulders of a pentecostal preacher who would love to see you speak in tongues.
I would love to see your past.
They say, ‘please help us find some money.
Cause we’re poor and there’s no science fiction to save us.'”
– Saved By Science Fiction

On their schedule for April 17 they have “Recording!”, so hopefully we can expect a full-length release sometime soon.

Official site | MySpace | Facebook | Twitter

Joining Vivian Darkbloom at the Middle East will be Boston indie pop bands Seven Shades Of Grey and Hanna & The Bloodlines, and See Green from Los Angeles. See Green features Courtenay Green on vocals & guitar, and at quick listen they sound very nice, so it should be a great show.

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