YACHT is a band that used to be boring. Initially the solo dance-pop project of Portland musician, Jona Bechtolt, its shortcomings lay in an obvious lack of focus. Sure, Bechtolt has always possessed a singular knack for constructing addictive dare-you-to-dance material, but simply put, it was never enough to generate a lasting buzz. In the ever-competitive realm of indie music, a handful of impeccable synth hooks isn’t always gonna cut it.
This led to Bechtolt having a somewhat lackluster career as he grappled for the firm concept that could carry his music from mediocre to memorable. And eventually he found it, rebranding the project as a duo with long-time contributor Claire Evans in 2008. YACHT floats in flat waters no more. Evans is the spirited x-factor that’s reshaped the band into something of a completely different caliber, something that on Saturday night fostered the same sort of thrilled energy within the Triple Rock that has only previously existed in my most lucid Stop Making Sense fantasies. But that’s for another day…
Before capturing the T-Rock crowd with her tireless performance fervor, Claire Evans captured them with her legs. Donning what appeared to be a pair of skin-tight athletic boxer briefs, she asserted herself as the sexy star of the evening. And what a charming star she was! Like the hypothetical offspring of Madonna and David Byrne, she harnessed both commanding femininity and spontaneity, the precise edge that kept everyone so invested throughout the show. True to Byrne-sian form, the most gratifying physical response to the music was to eagerly run in place.
As far as the repertoire covered went, the set rifled through much of their 2009 LP See Mystery Lights. Surefire explosive singles like “The Afterlife” and “Psychic City” put dance exuberance at a high, especially in combination with several impromptu, hands-on (that is, sexy hands on: she was caressing faces) crowd visits. Since See Mystery Lights is so heavily founded upon a rock- meets-technology sound aesthetic, it worked well for the live show to consist of a five-person lineup. YACHT’s sound involves the metronomic timing of contrasting elements (e.g. a raw bass riff succeeding a spacey synth) so with the full band all of these subtleties came across with ease. Whether Evans’s half-speaking/half-singing vocals were delivering the band’s own poetry or covering Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law” (which may have actually been too cool for words), the transitions were seamless, the dance-fueled enthusiasm never once interrupted.
As their leisurely name suggests (even though it’s an acronym for something completely unrelated to boats), everything about YACHT’s set was a party. It didn’t matter if you weren’t familiar with their records or genesis story. More than the quality of the music (which was undoubtedly incredible), this show was ruled by the vibes from the band themselves. They’ve made important strides in three years and in an era of music where so many live performances are laden with unnecessary frills to stimulate the audience (my finger is pointed at you, Ke$ha and condom cannon), YACHT provide a refreshing reminder that it simply doesn’t have to be that way.