San Francisco’s Enablers are more an amalgam of music and poetry than the average band. This distinction is forged primarily through the use of speech only loosely set in pattern with the music instead of sing-song verse.

In a live setting — in this case New York City’s Knitting Factory, at the Tap Bar — it’s the words that takes the forefront, thanks to the power of frontman Pete Simonelli. Forceful and engaging, he’s part storyteller, part actor, part preacher, part magician. Wildly gesticulating, crouching, jumping, thrusting his body across the stage in assorted ways, he’s impossible to take your eyes from. He occasionally jumps into the audience, not to be pawed at or worshiped, but as part of his experience. His grimy voice is bigger than his body, like a spirit that possesses him. It fills every crevice of the room.

Enablers, “Pauly’s Days in Cinema” (download)

This isn’t to belittle the music, a seemingly effortless and natural post-rock, the combination of guitar, drums and more guitar. In a recorded format, it takes its equal place alongside the poetry. And had they a less talented frontman, surely the same would stand for their performance. It’s not that, live, the music is forgotten or ignored, it’s just that it hovers in the background until it reaches a particularly kinetic moment, or, at the polar opposite, a more tender one. Together with the words, the overall sound moves fluidly, languidly, but builds and shifts to an inevitable breaking point and catharsis, and it does this repeatedly, like a powder keg that is filled, erupts and regenerates, over and over.

Opening for Enablers were EDAS and DOCH. EDAS took forever to set up, then took the stage declaring that this was meant as a piece of art more than anything (at this point it should possibly be mentioned that both EDAS and Enablers performed last Friday as part of the Whitney Biennial). With the lights dimmed, the frontman began shouting about food, while Sean Meadows (formerly of Lungfish) played guitar, and two cute Asian girls made music on a violin, keyboard and computer. The shouting about food turned into shouting about race and poverty, with lines from recipes (most recurrently for Creme Brulee) tossed in here and there. The overall effect was a little alienating, and despite the music and fancy lighting effects, it still felt the same way it always does when a white, middle-class guy goes on a rant about race and poverty. Arriving late, the two songs by DOCH indicated they might have been worth getting there early to see, but alas…

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