I went with a friend to see Real Estate at Glasgow’s The Arches a few weekends back. Glasgow, despite its rather dismal reputation, has many redeeming qualities, and The Arches venue and bar is certainly one of them. However, the location does it no favours. Located by a seemingly endless array of those ‘pizzerias’ which also sell chips and Chinese food (what?), The Arches is central but perhaps a bit too central. That being said, Real Estate was certainly a show I was highly anticipating. I’m not an avid fan, but their album Days was one of my favorites of 2011. Deemed their ‘breakthrough album’, Days maintained their distinct Beach Boys-mixed-with-The Shins sound of the eponymous first album, yet reached far enough to obtain a distinct flow and sound of its own.
Hailing from New Jersey, a state described by my native New Yorker friend as ‘smelly’, Real Estate’s easy-going music is a far cry from the Jersey Shore sound popularized by Bruce Springsteen. Real Estate’s performance was exactly what I expected, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable. Its three key members were a fairly typical indie outfit, decked out in oversized glasses, denim jackets, pseudo-nautical shirts and skinny jeans. The singer was friendly but reserved, borderline shy, and the bassist offered a tentative invitation for the crowd to follow them to Nice and Sleazy’s (also said with a self-imposed question mark), a nearby bar of considerable reputation.
The Arches is a rather small venue, the atmosphere intimate, crowded but not packed. Perhaps the only downfall to the event was the subdued crowd itself. What is the fascination with being too cool to actually move around or bob your head? My friend and I were quite near the front, and were completely confused about the lack of animation in the crowd. Sure, Real Estate’s music is mellow and could definitely be described as easy-listening, but not even the opening chords of ‘Easy’, one of the major singles from Days, inspired more than a self-satisfied nod of recognition and a slurp of Red Stripe. However, this did not deter my friend and I from displaying our support from the second row – along with a couple of brazen Canadians who were clearly fans.
As most bands do, Real Estate left the stage and returned for one more song. Easily my favorite part of the gig, they proceeded to play mostly instrumental music, putting on a sort of jam session for the crowd similar to what you can hear in Days’ ‘Kinder Blumen’. This was the perfect end to a concert; catchy music, a not too try-hard performance, a pleasure to both listen and swing your hips to.