SXSW 2016: Roger Sellers’ Bayonne tries to escape the bedroom

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Bayonne’s Roger Sellers squats behind his electronics on stage at SXSW 2016. Photo Aidan McQuay

Austin’s Roger Sellers played an early SXSW set at Barracuda Thursday under his relatively new moniker, Bayonne. 

“I’m going to do a lot of weird loops for the next 30 minutes,” he said. The talented, inventive electro-acoustic artist drew a solid crowd, and for good reason. There’s always an infectious pulse under most of Bayonne’s songs, and Sellers’ vocals are catchy and totally emotional enough to speak to an audience.

And he’s putting in a huge effort in his stage show, dancing and moving his body along with cues to the music.

But there is something tricky about bridging the disconnect between pre recorded loops and a live audience.

Sellers bounces around the stage, does live vocals, live drum loops and God knows what else with the triggers under his fingers. But he never quite sustained eye contact with the audience, and try as he might, the stage show doesn’t impart a mood or sense of urgency to the crowd.

Ultimately there’s probably only one way to make a live show of all these digital pieces feel live, and that’s to perform as much music as humanly possible on stage in front of the crowd.

Every time a performer steps away from the instrument (or electronics in this case), to dance, or do anything, something does not compute in the viewer’s mind. It begs the question, why are we watching you on stage right now, instead of popping on headphones and downloading the album?

Still, it’s not for lack of trying. Sellers does interesting live vocals, and pounded away on drums, building loops that worked under the digital arpeggios. He brought on a second drummer halfway through too.

It’s completely compelling music, and there’s a good reason that, his next record is being released on a serious national label, Mom and Pop. In any case, this could be a huge year for Bayonne, but mostly because his records are gorgeous works of art.

 


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