Words and Photos by Erin Christie
We all love a little mystery.
I began hearing whispers about a band called bar italia at the top of this year. Initially, I really wasn’t sure what to make of them, as a skeptic toward subjects that rise in popularity at a slightly alarming rate. However, now that I’ve seen them live twice and bore witness to the subtle power that is their newest LP, Tracey Denim, I can safely say that I totally get it.
While a general 'angsty indie-rock' categorization might make sense if you're going off of aesthetics alone, Tracey Denim manages to stand apart, charging forth via a multi-faceted collection of stories, a poet's diary entries, soundtracked with a unique configuration of underground influences that other reviewers have defined as "whimsical," "tender," and even "mopey." Skeletally, the bar italia musical makeup seen here is rather simple (as in, it fairly neatly follows the slowcore, shoegaze rubrik, especially given their association with Dean Blunt), but not in a derogatory or tired sense. Rather, this simplicity zeroes in on that fact that this band still doesn't need to go over-the-top with superfluous frills and a choir of jazz-hands to make their content stick out to listeners who are already well-accustomed to this specific niche. Instead, not doing 'too much' is what makes them memorable, with their unassuming, enigmatic quality being the center of the formula for success that they’ve conjured up.
A key example of bar italia's genius at work (in my opinion) is “Changer” — of course, I'm a sucker for reverb, jangly chords, and fuzzed-out instrumental sequences, but this track's unexpected and visceral emotional impact is what makes it hit home for me. The interplay between the utter despair and grief written between the lines with the jaw-dropping, twee-adjacent synergy between the vocalists is truly stunning. “Keep your head up, when it’s all down,” the lyrics urge, and in spite of the hopeful air behind the words, devastation still permeates in a truly moving way. Moments such as this capitalize on Tracey Denim's understated yet powerful beauty, directly paralleling that of the bashful, partially anonymous threesome themselves.
After weeks of hype, bar italia made their way to North America for a handful of shows in The Big Apple, two of which I had the honor to be in attendance for. Below, read a little snippet of what that was like and view a few photos from night one.
NIGHT ONE - bar italia @ TV Eye w/ Font
The first night of their jam-packed NYC tour, their North American debut, bar italia played to a sold-out crowd at Ridgewood’s TV Eye.
Backdropped with a wall of sequins and unveiled with the slide-pull off the red velvet curtain enveloping the stage, the band’s first appearance in The City That Never Sleeps surely made an impression. As soon as the band took the stage, however, they exited without so much as a “goodbye,” leaving the swelling crowd before the stage aching for more despite the lights coming back on in the midst of their pleaing.
Throughout the band's set, it was initially slightly jarring how non-performative their performance was, without any additions of theatricality or stage banter to cushion the set and round it out. But rather than this being continually off-putting, this demeanor only supported the band’s overall illusive vibe. Afterall, we consumers truly don’t know much about this somewhat newly elevated group, leaving their music to do all the talking for them. And talk, their music does.
NIGHT TWO - bar italia @ Hancock House w/ Chanel Beads
After two more nights of shows around the city (one at Union Pool and another Mercury Lounge), bar italia made their next appearance on Friday the 16th at “Mansionized,” the latest shindig thrown by NYC “hipster” podcasters The Ion Pack and Matador Records. Hosted at the historic John C. Kelly House, Bedford-Stuyvesant’s priciest-ever property (valued at over 6 Million USD!), the event was (by default), larger-than-life.
From a street-view alone, the show’s setting was an architectural wonder decorated with swirling ivy, the sheer magnificence easily juxtaposed by the gathering of art-school music-enjoyers stomping around the backyard patio. Among the guests that evening were many mainstays of the NYC “indie” music scene, industry higher ups, contemporary club kids, nepo-babies, fashion aficionados, and @kevincarpetnyc (who self-identifies as a “human carpet for anyone and everyone”). But beyond being a “who’s-who” for the ages, the event — on top of their four other sold-out NYC shows that week — greater expanded on the band’s undeniable magnetism, their ability to amass dedicated crowds night after night with just barely three years under their belts. As the sweaty second-floor room in which they performed that evening became packed to the gills, overflowing to the balcony behind them, the humidity became stifling, but that didn’t discourage the crowd from begging for more.
In all, my two-night tour with bar italia this month only confirmed my sneaking suspicion that they’re a quickly rising band who’s hype is totally justified. I’m excited to see where they go next on the path they’ve begun carving with the release of Tracey Denim earlier this year.