Live Shots: Real Estate and Big Troubles at Slim’s

Pub date November 14, 2011

The sunny, indie rock jams of Ridgewood, NJ’s Real Estate cured my rainy day blues on Friday night at Slim’s. San Francisco’s unshaven, flannel-clad urban lumberjacks showed up en masse to seek shelter from the rain and soak up some seriously good vibes. The five-piece kicked off with “Suburban Beverage” from its 2009 self-titled debut. Inviting us to mellow out, leader Martin Courtney repeated the song’s only words, “Budweiser, Sprite, do you feel alright?” Fans responded with blissful head-nodding.

Courtney looked effortlessly hip in his thrift store button-up and thick-rimmed glasses. With his ball cap, t-shirt, and scruffy beard, bassist Alex Bleeker resembled someone’s dad jamming out on a Saturday afternoon. Bleeker praised San Francisco as his favorite city before the band jumped into “Easy,” the opening track from its sophomore effort, Days (Domino). As Courtney recited lyrics involving dreams, running through fields, and free love, guitarist Matt Mondanile warmed the venue with his clean guitar riffs.

The band’s lengthy set consisted of new songs from Days interspersed with selections from its debut. Considering the consistent sound of Real Estate’s albums, I was surprised to see Courtney and Bleeker trading lead vocal duties. A highlight of the evening was “It’s Real,” which had fans singing along to its catchy chorus of Ohs. Another success was the laid back, exceptionally chill “Out Of Tune.”

Real Estate also covered a couple songs by fellow New Jersey bands, the first of which was Felt’s “Sunlight Bathed The Golden Glow.” The jangly pop track was perfectly suited to the group’s summery backyard sound. After closing with “All the Same,” the band returned to the stage to cover the Feelies’ “Higher Ground.” Though I suspect few of them were familiar with the original, the audience totally loved it.

Real Estate finished out its encore with some favorites and left with the promise to meet fans at the Attic for a drink. Cloaked in the warmth of Real Estate’s positive vibes, I ventured back into the dark and blustery San Francisco night.

Opener: I had high hopes for another act from Ridgewood, Big Troubles. Though the band looked cute enough to take to the prom, its opening set fell a little flat. After getting hooked on its recent album Romantic Comedy (Slumberland), I was looking for a more intense, dynamic version of the songs I’d come to love. What I got was the equivalent of listening to the CD in my bedroom. With such a clear shoe-gaze influence, however, I suppose a highly animated performance would be a betrayal of the band’s roots.


All photos by Wolfgangg Photography.