Hank and Cupcakes @ Pianos | 9.4.09

JezebelMusic.com @ Pianos
September 4, 2009 | Hank and Cupcakes


photo by Allison Levin

The crowd at Pianos was well-liquored. A little while after Hank and Cupcakes took the stage and demurely introduced themselves, a pronouncement had to be made.

“YOU’RE HOT!” some guy screamed from the middle of the crowd.

Honestly, it could have been directed at either Hank or Cupcakes, although it was the latter who decided to answer. Flipping some of her hair out of her face, she stared out at the audience in her American-Apparel-approved open-shirt-over-bra combo and smiled. “Yes, I am!” And then it was time to get back to business.

The Brooklyn duo is known for their infectious (and yet still aloof) bass and drum electro-pop. Here to celebrate the release of their new EP, Pleasure Town, they were surrounded by friends and fans in the cramped back room of Pianos. It got so crowded that they stopped letting people into the actual show about halfway through the set, and only the very resourceful could MacGyver their way in.

They started the set with “Alive,” a tune that is not actually on Pleasure Town. However, once they had gotten the crowd sufficiently warmed, they moved right into the eponymous track. It’s really a shame that it was too crowded to properly dance, as Hank and Cupcakes’ brand of dance music is both well-executed and catchy. Standing at the drums, Cupcakes kept the beat and remained alarmingly pitch perfect as Hank brought the funk with some incredibly skillful bass work.

They played every song on Pleasure Town except the first track, the more mellow “Stay” which, while beautiful, probably wasn’t exactly right for this crowd. People were here to party.

Hank and Cupcakes’ cover of Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control” has a lot of power on the EP, but live it is even more of a sight to behold. The raw lyrics combined with Cupcake’s energy and emotion really drove it home. This may have been a record release party, which generally means everyone here wanted to see the band regardless, but that didn’t mean Hank and Cupcakes weren’t going to fucking try.

Unfortunately, as on point as Hank and Cupcakes were, the same could not be said for the technical aspects of the show. About halfway through the set, during the song “Do This,” lights started going off. And not in a fun rave-y way, either. With little to no warning, the band (and audience) were plunged into darkness for seemingly no reason. This little interruption kept H&C from finishing the song, so they decided to just move on to the next one.

Fans of the band had figured out unique ways of showing their appreciation, and apparently this was audience participation day at Pianos. Shortly after the light fiasco, a girl held a cardboard shoebox aloft. “Who wants cupcakes?” she asked, and the box got crowdsurfed to the stage, where I’m assuming it made a killer late night snack.

After the break for baked goods, and for the last two songs of the 10-song set, the band pulled up a guest musician. And surprisingly it was not a guitarist. Bassist Yula Beeri, formerly of NaNuchKa stepped up to the stage to offer backing vocals and another layer of complexity to those funk-inspired bass riffs.

Beeri helped pump up the energy even more on “Ain’t No Love” and the extended version of “Nothing Yet” which ended the night. And the lights stayed the whole time. Maybe it was magic. Or perhaps even electricity finds a second wind when there are cupcakes on the table.

by allison levin

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