Elizabeth Harper’s vocals are rich on record and, live, come out maybe thicker. They’re reverbed out, but not delayed too much, so the sound becomes thick but not tricky, warmer even. Scott Rosenthal maintains beats and punches synths through an antique piece of musical mystery (to me, at least) that is bound and held by what appears to be the broken off bottom half of an office chair. The ingenuity of that itself gives the stage some attitude. This is a great pairing for the previous group, Million Young, whose relaxed electronic grooves have already wooed ATLiens a couple of times throughout the past year. Like Million Young have already proven here, Class Actress are rising tour warriors – making fans the old school way, and keeping them.
Sometimes Harper chimes in with MIDI controlled key melodies that sound like the ones I’m used to hearing in my ear buds. Mind you, I didn’t have a lot of material to investigate before seeing them for my first time at the EARL but, then again, it didn’t take much to capture my interest. The promo tune that her publicist is spreading around this month, “Careful What You Say” (which I should also note as the single from the Class Actress debut EP, Journal of Ardency), is close to the top of the set. The crowd appreciates it, as the applause elasticizes to include heavier, high pitched screams as the girls up front now jump up and down while clapping.
Harper is very fashiony; her look is simple but collected – a black coat rubbing quarters with a white button-up that’s formal and big on her skinny frame. The white collar is high and the shirttails hang lower than the jacket, draping black tights. Chic short boots dance below the obvious presence of her boutique-ish jewelry. If this all seems too descriptive, it’s only to reinforce how much the visual aspect parallels the specific sound that is Class Actress. Harper’s coat comes off halfway through the string of somber sway, and she keeps the microphone on the stand so that she can dance while singing.
The electro kick beats throughout the set are very bass heavy, lending a consistent dance drive to the entire run of songs, which is a mix of EP and to-come LP selections, she later informs me. “LMLMLUU2” (Love Me Love Me Like You Used To) comes in with deep, heavy bass that opens into a very 80s chorus that has high ranging vocals that peak up on the tail of every other measure. It’s a rhythmic melody – voice as beat. The automations of the programming behind it feel real time live, not automated. Careful care has been given to live frequencies, which are completely different from the recordings but completely called for. Frankly, it sounds electronic but not fake.
The Brooklyners play a short set of about 40 minutes. I seriously want to complain about that, but realize a week later that the duo has probably prepped for their time at SXSW, where everyone plays strict 30-minute blocks of music and moves on. By the way, I non-coincidentally follow Class Actress to Austin, where they crank out six showcases in just a few days.
The final song plucks strings in my little guitarist heart. Rosenthal pulls out a beautiful blue Strat that sounds, as everything and everyone else on stage, as it looks. He combs through shoegaze strides and tones that blanket the driving synth-heavy pop. In the end, Harper dips straight to the merch booth, where her kindness parallels her talent as she shakes hands with discoverers who are stoked to have found Class Actress on a hump day night in East Atlanta. Oh yes, me, too.
photos courtesy of Tim at I’m A Bear! Etc.