The concert began like a UFO landing on the stage of The Sinclair.
The stage still black, Josh Arnoudse, half of the quirky duo You Won’t, whipped what looked like a vacuum tube around his head like a lasso. It whirred and buzzed like a landing spaceship as artificial rain and thunder poured from the speakers. A litany of pedals were spread in an L at his feet. The only hint that we were at a music venue and not in a scene from E.T. were the photos of David Bowie and Prince taped behind the bar.
In an instant, we were at a rock ‘n roll show as Arnoudse and Raky Sastri, You Won’t’s one man rhythm section, broke into a set of four-chord jams. Arnoudse described the duo’s division of labor succinctly; “I play guitar and sing and [Raky] does everything else.”
More about rhythm and gusto than melody, Arnoudse’s vocals were belted out a nasally country twang with hints of Bob Dylan and Buddy Holly. The duo’s aggressive strumming and drumming imparted an 80s rock edge with a country vibe that sounded like the soundtrack to a Freaks and Geeks spin-off set in Kansas.
Sastri put every moving part of his body to use. He blew into a harmonica strapped around his neck, occasionally exchanging it for electric bagpipes the size of a pitch pipe. At one point he was strumming a bass ukulele with his left hand while using that same hand intermittently to punch a cymbal, simultaneously using his other three limbs to play the drums in the conventional manner while using his remaining breath to contribute some backup vocals and puff into the harmonica.
Sastri’s display of dexterity was impressive, but it begged the question, “To what end?” It seemed the duo was covering songs by a struggling four-piece band — the two could hardly perform all the parts needed to make the song interesting. The guitar-based four-chord songs with straightforward melodies resembled a framework without a building inside and the simple harmonic structure needed another instrument to provide variation between tunes. Even at his most versatile, Sastri could, at best, play the part of a decent back-up trio.
In the second half, the duo delved into their deeper, more outlandish material. Electronic beeps and boops evoking the show’s opening were sprinkled in during transitions and at one point tree frogs in the jungle echoed through the speakers. Feedback from some creative guitar-waving bristled as Arnoudse bent the instrument with arms extended, looking like a man trying not to be pulled away by his umbrella blowing in the wind.
The evening’s highlight for the relatively full Sinclair crowd occurred when Sastri whipped out a bow and saw to accompany Arnoudse on a meter-free ballad. The saw purred and sighed, like the wind bending between trees, its lips puckered in a whistle.
The two, friends since their Lexington High School days, had a blast on stage and poured energy into the performance, the release show for their new LP, Revolutionaries. Their eccentric performance was confident, even with its disjointed moments. The vacuum tube made a return as a microphone through which Arnoudse performed a distorted “A Whole New World.” The show ended as it began, as the UFO hovered above the stage, preparing to return home.
- Good energy
- Tight performance
- Simple, catchy songs
- Songs too similar
- Could have seen more of the saw (and the electronics)
- Disjointed set