Real Estate let its beach party get a little ‘wild’ at the Altar Bar


By Jack Trainor / Staff Writer

Fans of the band Real Estate know exactly what to expect from the New Jersey alt-rockers by now — a chilled-out beach party. 

Real Estate brought its beach-bum vibes to the Rust Belt last Wednesday at the Altar Bar in its shy, tight-lipped manner. But newly added keyboardist Matt Kallman and drummer Jackson Pollis offered fans a subtle yet satisfyingly improved take on much of the band’s material. 

For the majority of Real Estate’s career, it was a trio comprised of guitarist Matt Mondanile, singer and guitarist Martin Courtney and bassist Alex Bleeker. But they picked up Kallman and Pollis before recording their acclaimed latest record this year —  Atlas — and haven’t looked back. 

The newcomers’ presence was felt most significantly during the band’s older songs, in which skilled drumbeats and background synths filled holes you didn’t realize existed before. These were most notably “Green Aisles,” “Easy” and a faster, tighter “Basement,” which, Courtney revealed, hadn’t been played (before their previous show on the tour) since the song debuted on 2010’s Reality EP.

Don’t let Real Estate’s calm, shoegazing demeanor fool you — its energy and skill as a unit shines through the music. Opening with the obscure “Green River,” the band’s intensity and volume rose after each song until the group closed with a peak performance of “Younger Than Yesterday.” 

Before the encore, the evening’s healthy setlist of new and old songs skipped over some of the band’s finest, including “Out of Tune” and “Municipality,” both from the band’s breakout 2011 album Days. In their place was the instrumental “Kinder Blumen” and “Easy,” two equally breezy tunes also from Days, but nonetheless a minor disappointment. 

Meanwhile, as singer and guitarist Courtney kept a tight lip with the audience between songs, Bleeker did all the bantering for him — and then some. This was only noticeable given the rest of the band members’ timid concentration on either their guitar pedals or the stage’s floorboards. 

But Mondanile wore a jovial smirk on his face through every song, and even Courtney let out a few improvised “ohhh”s and “ahhh”s as the show progressed — a sign that the band was, in fact, having a grand, relaxed time. 

“It’s been a wild, wild time, guys,” Courtney murmured in his monotone voice as he readied his guitar for the band’s final song before the encore, “It’s Real.” Of course, for any other band this would be sarcasm — but for Courtney and Real Estate, “wild” takes on a simpler meaning. 

By the time the band reached its final song of the night, “Younger Than Yesterday,” its energy had inched up. The song, which first appeared as a lo-fi farewell to summer on Reality, got its first tune-up when it was released as a track on Days and now appeared better than both versions as an epic conclusion, complete with windmill strums from Bleeker and added texture from Kallman and Pollis. Real Estate’s beach party by that point had turned into an all-out kegger — which is pretty wild indeed.