Yesterday night, San Franciscans could simultaneously go out and feel at home, hugged by the fuzzy timbre of layered keys and sweet falsetto. Milagres waxed and waned on The Brick & Mortar stage, opening for local orchestral unit, The Family Crest. Vocalist Kyle Wilson didn’t don a fedora. Drummer Paul Payabyab didn’t don a shirt.
A sinusoidal current, the performer-audience energy fluctuated between slow build-ups and euphoric haze. But the energy was perpetually bounded, by the mild crowd and by the band themselves. At each climax, Milagres retreated into their New Mexico hidey-hole, or the song simply came to an abrupt end, which was the case for several numbers, including “Halfway” and “The Letterbomb.”
Twice, Wilson gave a long, sustained wail – a whale of a note – causing the audience to respond with a mix of enthusiasm and bewilderment. The first wail occurred shortly after the opening duo of jiving, Glowing Mouth single “Here to Stay” and “Terrifying Sea.” The latter, a cut off Violent Light, was delivered with an ardent longing and indifferent self-pity, in accordance to its lyrics:
“All my failures are lost on you / Can you tell what you see in me? […] Can you open up my tiny torpid brain? / It’s so boring, this self-inflicted pain / I wanna swim in a terrifying sea.”
His audience had just gotten comfortable when a couple of songs later, Wilson unexpectedly committed himself to an absurdly high falsetto note. He’d been singing a wide range up until then, but this first paralyzing moment was unequaled. It was impressive and it was a slightly rude awakening, mostly because it wasn’t sparkly. It came and went, a short burst of applause blending into the guitar that had picked up the song once Wilson had run out of breath. He apologized after, confessing that his voice had been on and off this week.
Cue a spirited delivery of “Halfway,” a grounded drive in “The Letterbomb,” and a high-flying “Jeweled Cave.” Cue the second wail. Despite having played SXSW four times already, the Brooklyn-based band introduced themselves several times as just that – “Milagres from Brooklyn,” playing every part the timid, billed opener. They held back. They didn’t engage in any distinctive behaviour, they didn’t play up the crowd; apart from Wilson’s pseudo-dog whistles, they didn’t leave a lasting impression.
Milagres didn’t ignite the stage, or the crowd, although Payabyab certainly pounded in an enthusiastic effort. They warmed the coals and tended to them, but they didn’t kindle a fire. Excepting a couple of dissonant moments, they were on point. No frills, no drama. They closed, like any other “unknown” band (Wilson’s words after the show), with their most successful single to date, “Glowing Mouth.” They thanked the city. And left.
Article and photos by Joanna Jiang