Real Estate has found a brilliant niche in their vibrant, dreamy sound that provides a meditative atmosphere for ambitious explorers and daydreamers alike. The East Coast indie group has developed a unique aesthetic of elevated background music, having an outer layer of calm waves and a deeper layer of meaning and inspiration. Their live performance last Sunday at SOhO in downtown Santa Barbara displays this perfectly with fluctuating moments of passionate energy, as well as longer drawn-out spells of connected tranquility. Their performance is genuinely reflective of the band’s success, and it elevated the record’s feelings of happiness to newer heights.
The longer I waited in the intimate space of SOhO, the more I realized I was in for a night away from the normal day-to-day of college life. After making my way to the bar area and ordering a gin and tonic before the show, I noticed that there was a very apparent sense of high audience diversity. Along with the high presence of Doc Martens and cuffed jeans from the college crowd, as expected, there was also a somewhat surprising amount of an older Santa Barbara crowd. Thinking back, this rings true to the band’s appeal as their pure and refined rock sound recalls older bands of music history, such as The Smiths and Pink Floyd. Moments before the tunes began, the venue filled to full capacity and anticipation filled the Sunday air. Acoustic indie songstress Bedouine kicked off the night’s festivities with soothing ballads from her 2017 self-titled release and accurately set the stage for the music to follow. After a powerful ovation from the crowd and an unfortunate goodbye from Bedouine, the stage was set for the next phase of the evening.
Real Estate took to the stage and was met with high applause, and they delivered immediately with classics “Saturday” and “Had to Hear.” The music sounded as clean and vibrant as expected with a balanced mix and well-orchestrated connection. The band’s limited physical movement and crowd interaction mixed well with the feel of the sound and was balanced out by an extremely sonically pleasing presence. Although the group uses dreamy instrumentals and drawn-out essays to generate atmosphere, the life context is often successful in making these lengthy moments feel like an instant. I often found myself drifting away in Real Estate’s harmonies only to come back to reality feeling like a lifetime had just passed.
The hands-down most powerful moment of the night was early in the set when the band performed the hit song “Darling” from their latest album, In Mind. The synth chords moved beautifully in and out of the song’s arrangement and set a gorgeous landscape for the performance of the track. The disorienting off-beats of the instrumental hit perfectly, which was by far the most effective moment of the night in connecting with the audience; it made me move and smile like an entranced fan. Afterwards, the applause was at an all-time high for the night, and the crowd showed an amount of euphoria that I haven’t seen in a long time. It was a moment that left the crowd wondering what could possibly come next to keep the audience alive. Needless to say, the band kept the mood moving.
After that glorious display of bliss, Real Estate followed with a one-two punch of “White Light” and “Crime.” Afterward came the most wild and heavy moment of the night with In Time standout “Two Arrows.” The track features a long psychedelic instrumental outro that makes plenty of noise in the studio version, but a mere listen to a digital copy of the song does no justice to what would happen live. The live rendition was long, distorted and crazy, with high-pitched self-made feedback screeching from the lead guitar, a punching bassline and eclectic drum fills from the sticks in the back. There were time switches and solos and guitar thrashes that left the audience in awe. When it finally faded out and all the chaos ended, there was a moment of stillness where it seemed that neither the viewers nor the band even knew what to do.
A tremendous applause erupted as the bassist happily proclaimed, “It’s different every time. That was the Santa Barbara version.”
After we all recovered from that display, Real Estate followed up with more vibes of “Serve the Song” and “It’s Real,” before heading out to commence the encore. After a surprisingly cohesive chant of “Real Estate!” the band came back out to appease the crowd with “Municipality” and end with show essential “Talking Backwards.”
It is especially important to note the power of the band’s closer. “Talking Backwards” was a beautifully reflective moment for the set, which was the band executed flawlessly. Arguably the band’s biggest and best song, it ended the night with a sort of victory lap for the night’s main event, displaying that they are alive and well, better than ever and living it up in the beautiful and immersive atmosphere that they have created. It was outstanding, it was gorgeous, it was near perfect, and it left all of us feeling so damn happy. The night was above and beyond the level of quality and emotion that was expected, showing just what a successful, transparent and heartwarming band Real Estate is.