Miracle Fortress @ Webster Hall, 6/15/11

One look at the Webster Hall stage, outfitted with enough instruments and synthesizers to accommodate an eight-piece band, and I knew I was in for an entertaining show. When Miracle Fortress (a.k.a. Graham Van Pelt and his percussionist Jordan Robson- Cramer), the indie-rock band hailing from Montreal, came on, I was even more impressed as I watched Van Pelt command the stage and the instruments to put on a high energy show, seamlessly moving from one instrument to another, championing the layered effects like a maestro at a symphony. Even with flashing neon-colored lights and heavy techno beats, this was no ordinary dance concert. Van Pelt exercised precision and care, layering and distorting sounds to his whim, all the while exhibiting vocal prowess as his higher vocal range floated over a cacophony of melodic lines and synthesized notes.

The second song of the night “Miscalculations,” from the most recent Miracle Fortress record Was I the Wave, demonstrated the fact that a song does not have to fall into a certain classification; it can exhibit positive qualities from a number of genres and mold them together to create a sound that all audience members (or at least those with a discerning and creative ear for music) can appreciate.

It was nearly impossible to not bop my head to the poppy beats and sway to the clear and confident sounds of Van Pelt’s voice. A few songs into his set, I found myself full-on dancing, and I was not alone. Looking out over the ostentatious Webster Hall floor, I was hard pressed to spot a concertgoer who was not gyrating to the revolving beats and hypnotic sounds. Audience members seemed quite connected to the swirling melodies, moving to the music and appreciating Van Pelt’s musical dexterity.

“Spectre,” with pipe organ effects on the leading accompaniment line and layer upon layer of harmony, was majestic in sound, evoking an almost spiritual quality. Although the song was still set to steady beats, the audience slowed down their movements and connected to the sacredness of the music, riding along the wave (pun intended) of sound as Van Pelt expertly layered and formed his musical idea.

The finale song was grand on all accounts: more audience members had crowded into the hall, more dancing had ensued and more energy was being transferred from the stage to the audience in perfect symbiosis. With the microphone in one hand and a drumstick in the other, Van Pelt displayed his musical aptitude, switching from one instrument to another, mixing beats, and oh yeah, singing perfectly on pitch and effortlessly hitting high notes.

To listen to the band’s Was I the Wave album is quite a musical experience in itself, but watching Van Pelt live, I gained a much greater appreciation and admiration for the technical proficiency and the musical multi-tasking that is Miracle Fortress.

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