On March 26th, indie rock group Real Estate put out their new EP, Half a Human, just over a year since their last album. However, those who kept tabs on the band’s pursuits were able to get a sneak preview of the new tracks on Wednesday, March 24th at 7pm ET. The event, Zoomin With Real Estate, was streamed for free on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch — though the musicians were accepting donations via their “tip jar” in the bottom right corner of the screen.
Besides the fact that the event anticipated the new release, it was hard to tell what was actually going to take place. In many ways, the concert might have been the most authentic live experience since the beginning of the pandemic. It began with some of the band members talking over each other, while the others noodled on their instruments in the background. The group took questions from viewers, such as “What part of a song do you usually write first?” (“The chords”), “Do you like Steely Dan?” (“Yes”), and “How are you guys so chill?” (“It’s because we’re from New Jersey”).
A couple of the band members then went on to perform songs for the audience. Bassist Alex Bleeker played his own rendition of the EP’s “D+,” which could have come straight out of the 1960s. Comments such as “sounds like Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young,” and “Neil Estate” came pouring in from viewers as Bleeker jammed out. Lead singer and guitarist Martin Courtney also performed some of Real Estate’s hits, although one verse into The Bend he had to stop because he couldn’t remember the lyrics. You could be a critic about this, but in all honesty it only showed the true nature of the pandemic and the lack of live music that has come out of it. In other words, it made the experience feel more genuine and relatable than a formal performance.
To wrap things up, the band gave the audience a full listen to the new EP, via screen share capabilities. The instrumental opener, “Desire Path” immediately transported you to summertime, with arpeggiating bass lines much like you would hear listening to The Beatles. “Half a Human” and “Soon” were in line with the group’s usual tastes while simultaneously experimenting with guitar solos. “D+” was a complete 360 from the rest of the album, but gave listeners the opportunity to hear a different side of the band. “In the Garden” and “Ribbon” featured wonderful bass lines and effectively evoked images of beach sunsets and wide open fields in the countryside.
Perhaps it wasn’t the concert experience we wanted, but the concert experience we needed. While we yearn for the return of in-person performances, it’s important to highlight the ways this stream was actually better than an in-person concert. The Q&A session at the beginning was something that would almost never happen in-person because of the typical pre-concert frenzy. The online format allowed many people to attend and also gave viewers the opportunity to support the group with donations. And the lack of a stage made you feel like you got to know the band on a more intimate level. At the end of the day, we were all just people staring into a computer screen for the 13th consecutive month.