BROOKLYN, NY—The Hidden Cameras’ music is pure happiness. So when front man Joel Gibb came onstage during opening act Gentleman Reg to add vocals, I was worried. A severe hipster in an ironic sweater; the stare he gave the audience was not dissimilar to the unamused look he shot me when I clogged up the entrance scrambling to pick up the contents of my purse. This is a band I love, and I was afraid.
Union Hall, though a shi-shi bar upstairs styled as if Sherlock Holmes played bocce in his library, the show was in the basement. Gentleman Reg didn’t start until after 11, “The time for rock.” So sweet and personable, seeing this set was like making a new friend.
Around 12:15 a.m., after waiting around to an entirely Weezer playlist in tiny, overcrowded space decorated with portraits of women whose eyes followed you and a diorama featuring taxidermied animals, all eight Hidden Cameras came on stage. The line-up included a violinist, a trumpeter, and of course, someone needed to play the tambourine, all dressed in quarter-length hooded robes. They began with a noise version of “Ratify The New,” the opening track on Origin:Orphan, released in September. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was surprised. Noise rock so loud and intense I felt claustrophobic played by a band dressed up like a cult.
The next song was “Follow These Eyes” and suddenly the tone changed. Though intense, the robes came off and everyone loosened up, at least, as much as one could in Park Slope. Even Joel Gibb’s scary looks became funny, although for the most part, as my friend commented later, “He kept looking like he was either coming or crying.”
Their set was varied and long, playing unexpected tracks like “Hump From Bending” and the queer lullaby “Awoo.” They also transformed songs like “Heji,” in which hard breathing in unison was used as a mock lyric, or “Boys Of Melody,” which was changed from a sweet ballad into a rock song. I was pumped.
The band kept asking the sort of banal questions that work in larger venues, but just don’t in spaces so small. When Gibb asked, “Where’s the party after?” An earnest looking boy no more than a foot away from him answered, “I live two blocks away.” Gibb’s creeped out look was unmistakable and cruel in its mocking. With the suggestion that people dance, they played “Walk On,” a particularly slow and creepy number, during which a man started moshing and then stage dived, causing concern from even the band. When it was over, the man yelled about Joy Division.
“We’re not Joy Division,” Gibb half joked.
“But you were so close!”
It was awkward, so we were encouraged to instead “friendly dance” to the next song that would “cleanse” us all—“Doot Doot Plot,” a happy, fluffy pop song.
Later, when they talked about their Halloween show in Toronto, they dared us to get naked as that crowd had. No one did, except for the moshing man. It was creepy. Especially when he started waving his belt around.
Other Origin:Orphan tracks were memorable; especially the Talking Heads inspired “Do I Belong,” the enthusiastic “Underage” (particularly the dance), and the sweet and sad “Color Of A Man.” “The Little Bit” and “In The NA” were also totally danceable and completely enjoyable.
At the end of the night, they played fan favorite “Smells Like Happiness,” a dirty and fun anthem and then closed with “Music Is My Boyfriend,” which left you wrapped up in the glowing love of gay church folk music.