The first thing I noticed about the tUnE-yArD’s show were the mustaches; waxy, curly, not entirely ironic mustaches that bobbed up and down in the crowd. There was also a fair share of polka dots, dreadlocks, wallflowers, and lesbian lovers. The ‘scene’ was overall undefined, but the vibe was most definitely comfortable. And why shouldn’t it be? Merrill Garbus’s music combines so many sounds, textures and genres that past a certain point the differences circle back on each other. It becomes cohesive, a variation of the same, like Merrill’s hair moving from buzz cut to a flowing lock on the top of her head.
So, after a surprisingly upbeat and upfront performance by Delicate Steve, Merrill moseyed to the mic with beads jangling over a simple brown dress. Her face was bright, making faces and jokes as quickly as sound loops, and when she began scatting, the confidence boomed, the same confidence I saw in the identities of the crowd. With waist high drums on each side and a ukulele on her chest, Merrill went through most of the songs from w h o k i l l, "Powa" being a highlight with its afro-pop reggae riff. She laughed, squinted when she screamed, and stopped twice because of mistakes—‘My hands are doing what my feet should be doing.’ The bass and sax players added depth not only sonically, but also made her onstage performance seem even more celebratory. She spoke to the crowd—I was wrong, this was not her first performance in Buffalo, but second—playfully, assuring us Buffalo has always shown her a good time, and she reciprocated a good time back. During her performance I tried to observe, pinpoint something I could write-up later that would explain what it was like there. All I could think of/feel were the goose bumps on my arm that stayed for a record-breaking half hour. It felt ticklish, but cool. Kinda like a mustache.