By Grace Becker for RIFF Magazine
OAKLAND — Under a stark white spotlight, Real Estate keyboardist Matt Kalman kicked off the band’s Oakland Noise Pop show Saturday with the first few notes of the appropriately titled “Saturday,” from 2017 album, In Mind. The Fox Theater was flooded with yellow light as lead singer-guitarist Martin Courtney welcomed the crowd with a simple yet eloquent “All Right.” Real Estate lived up to its jangle pop genre during a 90-minute set.
Courtney’s vocals, echoic and mellow, blanketed the room, fully encompassing the crowd under the band’s multifaceted, yet airy sound. He maintained a steady forward gaze and periodically switched back and forth between his baby pink and brown guitars, insisting that this clumsy shift is usually incorporated naturally into the set. Courtney consistently engaged the crowd with brief conversation between songs like “Darling” and “White Light.” The set was composed mostly of songs from Real Estate’s two most recent albums, In Mind and Atlas, with a few tunes from Days scattered throughout.
Undoubtedly, the star of the show was the elongated instrumental breaks punctuating each Real Estate song. These instrumentals, enhanced by complex and colorful lighting arrangements, were entrancing, causing fans to become lost in the layers of ethereal instruments that build and evolve over the span of several minutes. The instrumentals were a sort of organized chaos that blurred the lines between what was improvised and what was a written portion of the song.
It appeared that the show came to a climax during the instrumental section of “All the Same,” one of the more intense rock songs of the night. A small mosh pit formed at the front of the stage. Surprisingly, the show reached a second peak during “Circus,” when some fans entered complete ecstasy following another intricate instrumental. Real Estate made it crystal clear throughout these many instrumental sequences that they are masters of smooth tempo change.
Alongside Courtney, bassist Alex Bleeker routinely interacted with the audience. He handled lead vocals for a song, adding variety but maintaining a similar breezy vocal quality to Courtney. Real Estate continued to deliver robust tunes throughout the night.
San Francisco band The Mantles kicked off the show. Lead vocalist Michael Olivares’ Beatles-esque bowl haircut and patterned button emulated a ’60s feel under orange and yellow lighting. Olivares’ vocal quality was warm, full and self-confident. Like Real Estate, the Mantles rely on jangly guitar, yet they still manage to offer a unique sound. The Mantles performed for around a half hour.
Singer-songwriter Bedouine was sandwiched between the Mantles and Real Estate. Azniv Korejian, whose stage name is a tribute to her heritage, has opened for Real Estate for the entirety of its tour. While Bedouine’s musical style seemed out of place in the context of the other two bands, she managed to charm the room with her low folksy voice and sweet songs. Korkejian also cracked several jokes between songs, poking fun at her “unknown-ness.” Her acoustic set included songs like “Skyline,” “Solitary Daughter” and “Back to You.” Real Estate hopped in to provide instrumentals for her final song.