Wild Belle at U Street Music Hall

Chicago's psychedelic indie pop Wild Belle performs at DC's U Street Music Hall. Photo: Wild Belle

WASHINGTON, November 12, 2013 — Wild Belle is one of the quirkiest bands playing on the indie rock circuit right now. Granted, the term “quirky” gets thrown around a lot, especially in music. It normally applies to any band that doesn’t sound like a normal rock band or whose music takes more than 30 seconds to describe. But it really is an apt term when discussing Wild Belle.

Wild Belle is the interesting band where it’s easy to trace both their roots and influences, and see how easily they intersect. This is an interesting ensemble that manages to blend several different styles together without really sounding like any of those styles, crafting instead a weird fusion music that sounds as much as possible like a completely integrated product. This is what they put on display during their recent set at the U Street Music Hall.


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The two primary members of Wild Belle are brother/sister combo Elliot and Natalie Bergman. Their history, obviously, extends back to their childhood although it’s not as tangible a connection as one might imagine. That’s because there’s not much interaction between the two when they’re up on stage, at least in the normal sense of “interaction.” Instead, their sibling connection takes the form of a unified musical style.

Both their parents were musicians. That informs a lot of their musical style more than anything else. This is important because their sound seems to be especially rooted in two people who grew up together listening to music rather seriously with a sophisticated level of appreciation much greater than average.

Result: Today, Wild Belle isn’t a group that seems to have grown up listening to a lot of mainstream pop music from any particular era. Instead, they were immersed in and influenced by ‘70s music that was held in high regard.

Wild Belle casts a pretty wide net across the genres it appropriates en route to their ultimate sound. All are noticeable during their live set but at the same time, remain largely as part of the background rather than up front and center. Wild Belle only hints at the various styles that influence them at any given point, but the cumulative effect of these brief looks back leaves behind a much deeper impression.


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Elements of funk, psychedelic, jazz, and ska are all prevalent during their set. But the reason they all seem so vague in their usage is because none of them are allowed to dominate. Instead, they become part of the blend of Wild Belle’s own original sound.

Their live show here was impressive, largely due to how effortlessly they’ve been able to meld their various genre influences into one cohesive sound while maintaining a consistency throughout their set.

There’s never a point where anyone can say that Wild Belle is playing a ska song or a jazz song. It’s all their own mix, though you can pick out the influences if you listen. Which gets us back to that sibling connection. It’s hard to imagine any two performers being able to create a sound this confident and mature without having an intimate understanding of and respect for one another to begin with.

All of this is what gives Wild Belle their genuinely quirky sound. With looping bass lines, airy guitars, and trippy snyths wrapping around Natalie Bergman’s deep, almost elusive vocals—it  sounds notably different from anything that’s currently out there, giving Wild Belle a veneer of modernity even for music that’s actually rooted in styles that have been around for decades.

 


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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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