You're standing close to the front of the stage and dead center, directly beneath a speaker. Unfortunately, the bass is loud enough to shake your body each time it hits. You picture the surface of your drink rippling like in the T. rex movie, but when you look down it is still. This aggressive bass prevents you from fully enjoying the set, but her enthusiasm leaves you with a positive impression.
The pause between sets is the perfect amount of time to take a bathroom break, visit the bar, find a new spot in the pit, and make a friend in the crowd. Then the curtains open again. The bass player is stage left and the drummer stage right. Merrill Garbus stands on a riser in the middle. She's wearing all black with a white rope wrapped loosely around her neck, and socks on her feet for better control of the pedals. There's a white screen behind her to catch triplet shadows of Merrill from the front lights.
tUnE-yArDs (and you're aware they don't always stylize it like that, but you like the way it looks) mostly play songs from their latest release, 2018's I can feel you creep into my private life and their breakout 2011 LP w h o k i l l. Sometimes the songs bleed into each other like a DJ set, but most times there are pauses in between while Merrill tunes her ukelele or twists knobs on her pedal board. This doesn't strike you as boring or unprofessional, because you know you are watching the performance before you hear it. When people talk about live vocal looping, Andrew Bird is usually the first name to come up, but Merrill Garbus is just as impressive. She sings background vocals unaccompanied into one of her microphones, and it isn't until it all comes together that you recognize the song. They play all your old and new favorites. The live rhythm section elevates "Es-So" into a hard-hitting stomp.
"What interesting times we live in," says Merrill, "Sometimes I don't know what to say, but I feel like the lyrics speak for themselves. That's not me tooting my own horn, it's just a lot. It's a lot." Her music is often political and cathartic, and the new album is no exception. You listen to her sing about her privilege, her white woman's voice. She encourages you to look at your hands, all the objects in your hands. It is a lot, you think. Sometimes you read the news and feel like you'll have a heart attack. But you're grateful for tUnE-yArDs, and you're grateful that you can talk and dance it out with friends.