Tristan Clopet & the Juice: Live at the All Asia (06.26.09)

Until June 26, 2009, my 23-year old best friend had never seen a live show.

I know.

Prior to last night, I would take a few minutes out of my day, every week, to check Live Aid and Ticketmaster in hopes of finding a band coming to Boston that I could take my best friend to see. But it never worked out; either she didn't care for the bands playing, or tickets were just too expensive. I was still determined, however, to be the one to take her to see her very first live show.

Then, one day, I received a Facebook message from the lead vocalist of one of my favorite bands, a band whose EP album I'd reviewed a while back, who told me that they were coming to Boston and would love to see me there. It was perfect. Little did I know that it was the CNC Indie Music Marathon, which meant my best friend would be exposed to several bands instead of just the one. It was something I was grateful for. I wanted her to have different sounds to compare, to see different set changes and the multitude of different instruments used. But it made me wonder just who she would be raving about by the night's end.

Unsurprisingly, it was Tristan Clopet & the Juice.

I'm not saying that because I am somewhat biased where this band is concerned, but rather because their sound was superior to the other bands playing. They definitely had competition from New York-based band, The Gypsy West, but still came out on top – as far as my best friend was concerned.

I'm inclined to agree. I spoke with Tristan after the performance and he bemoaned how it had sounded; after all, his admittedly large band had to contend with the little All Asia bar and their less-than-ideal acoustics. However, sometimes it's less about the actual sound and more about stage presence and the rapport a band has with its audience. Tristan Clopet & the Juice was the best of the evening not only because their music was more innovative than any of the other acts', but also because they were down on our level.

The band plays in such a way that it feels almost as if they are playing solely for you. They make eye contact; they smile at you, with you, almost as if you are sharing a joke that only you know. Their dialog with the audience was limited due to time constraints, but it was cheeky and fun, especially during the band member introductions. They were relaxed, comfortable in their skins like they had come out of the womb with their instruments, which made everyone in the bar that night as contented as they. Their songs slid seamless into one another, making it so the air was always filled with some type of music, whether it be the skipping roll of the guitar or an impressive drum solo performed by the entire band.

In addition to having my great expectations met, there were also two surprises for me last night. The first would be the actual band, itself. I had no idea their band and set-up was so large. Two drum sets, complete with bongos, two guitarists, a bassist, and one keyboardist amid a dozen different instruments (although the many drum sets would aid them in their last song, where they went out with a bang). Although their set-up was big, it wasn't a hindrance. All instruments were used, and not one of the band members had a hard time navigating through them. I've seen bands with large set-ups that have the performers practically swimming through them aimlessly; Tristan & the Juice were well-rehearsed and perfectly synchronized. Would they benefit more from playing bigger venues? Definitely, but they didn't let the size of All Asia to hamper them in any way.

The second surprise would be that the band has a new keyboardist, Alejandro Elizondo, who was incredibly impressive. I'm looking at the notes I took last night at the show and the first thing I wrote was "new keyboardist is made of win". It's true. Alejandro isn't just limited to his stellar keyboarding: he also plays guitar and drums – a little one-man band all on his own. It was definitely a good move for an already great band to have added him.

After my best friend got EPs from the other bands playing, as well as a t-shirt, we left All Asia at about 1:30am to make the drive home. Her first words upon entering our car were, "Tristan's band was the best out of anyone we saw, hands down." When I asked her why, she looked at me like I was brain damaged and said, "Because they were playing for us, not at us."

Who can argue with that?

Performance: *****
Music: *****
Presence: *****
Overall: *****