Show Review:: LOLO 2/3

Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Brighton Music Hall; Boston, MA
Review and photos by Kara Kokinos

Last Wednesday, LOLO took the stage at Brighton Music Hall in Boston, bringing a solid set of power ballads and dance jams. Her set started off with the angry, heartbreak driven “Heard It From A Friend,” Donning a fur coat, the petite singer belted her lungs out, welcoming the enthusiastic crowd forward. If you are unfamiliar with the singer, her 2013 video for the song is a fantastic introduction. Rhythmic and self-driving, the track carries the same energy across live. And if her killer voice seems familiar, you have probably heard it on Panic! At The Disco’s, “Miss Jackson,” “Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries,” as well as the original cast recordings of “Spring Awakening”.


Not afraid to get close to the crowd, the singer had beckoned those in attendance towards the stage and discarded restrictive layers and fallen to her knees by the middle of her second song, “Comeback Queen.” The performance aspect of LOLO’s set is not to be understated. Clapping along with the track, dramatic gesturing, eye contact with the audience, and ripping through her vocals all seemed to be second nature to Pritchard. “Comeback Queen” is an incredibly danceable track that calls for gospel backup vocalists and invokes plenty of “girl power” imagery.

This badassery was highlighted not only on her more upbeat tunes. With touring guitartist Josh Hoisington, the duo live mixed some beats and slashed through pre-recorded tracks but on the slower tracks they performed, including new track “The Courtyard” and “I Don’t Wanna Have to Lie,” there was a clear ache behind the words being sung. It would be difficult to compete with LOLO’s vocals but on her slower songs, they were given the opportunity to glisten against the more basic guitar/piano backings. That being said, there was an incredible build to every track performed that night as well as a clear narrative that went into the writing and performance.


Straddling the soul and alternative rock genres, LOLO’s writing is incredibly nuanced and with an obvious jazz atmosphere within a pop track. While on her recorded material the singer’s power is more implicit and backed by more muted instrumentals, her live material is full of raw energy.  Closing out the night, LOLO’s “Hit & Run” brought the same hard hitting energy as her opening two tracks, with the attitude of a late 2000s Carrie Underwood with the gritty tone of Juliet Simms. LOLO’s unabashed gesturing and use of the smaller Brighton Music Hall Stage transformed the venue. It was impossible not to be sucked into the space she created.

While on the shorter side, LOLO’s set packed a hefty punch and her natural stage presence reminded me of a set I caught from Halsey at a small, coffeeshop venue at the start of her career. If the new tracks that were performed that night, “Devil’s Gone to Dinner” and “No Time For Lonely,” are any indicator, it shouldn’t be long until LOLO is on everyone’s radar.

Show Review:: Jaeger Wells 12/12

Jaeger Wells
Saturday, December 12, 2015
Trade Winds Social Club; Dallas, TX
Review and photos by Natalie Gaul

Trade Winds Social Club, by definition, is a dive bar. It’s
small, it’s a local favorite, it kind of has a certain smell to it, and it’s
perfect for an intimate performance. I make my way over to the area where
Jaeger Wells would soon be winning Dallas over with his unique voice and
amazing songwriting and start setting up my camera. As I’m playing with the
settings, Jaeger comes over and introduces himself to me and sits down for a
small chat. As we are talking, I get to learn things that I would never have
guessed. For instance he is from Maine, he has moved all over the DFW area and
has settled in Houston, and the Granada Theater in Dallas is one of his
favorite venues. I also learned that he is a humble guy who is 100% about his


Around 10:45-11pm, Jaeger Wells takes the floor with his
band mates Vic Chan (drums) and touring bassist Zach Rabago. At this point in
the night, the room is packed. I had never heard Jaeger’s music before, so this
was a cherry-popper for me. He opened the set with his new song off of his new
EP, Fever Dream Anthology, called ‘San Paulo Liars Club’. With that song alone,
I became an instant fan. After a couple songs in, he broke off into an acoustic
set and did a passionate cover of The Mountain Goats’ ‘Best Ever Death Metal
Band in Denton’. If you know me, you know I LOVE a good cover song. Jaeger
ended the night with the eye-opening song, ‘What It Feels Like’. This is what I
would say is a perfect song to end a perfect performance.

If you didn’t get to catch him on tour this time around,
make sure you follow him on Facebook,
Instagram, and Twitter to find out when he will be
performing in your town next. You will definitely catch me at his next Dallas

Show Review:: HEALTH 11/21

Saturday, November 21, 2015
Music Hall of Williamsburg; Brooklyn, NY
Written by Jon Hecht

What does it take to fill a room with music?

A good publicist can fill it with people, and good equipment
can fill it with noise—loud, aching noise, that bubbles up from your toes and
into your ribs; epic, unsettling noise that you hear in your tongue and your
skull just as much as your ears; angry, throbbing noise that passes right
through you and disturbs the air behind your body. But there’s more to it than

The crowd at HEALTH was into it. They danced. They screamed and
cheered. They let the synthetic feedback being pumped at unholy decibel levels
from the amplifiers on the stage move through them. They did what a crowd does
at a really good show. They turned the noise coming out of the speakers into

HEALTH is a band that understands noise. They come from years
of playing it. They started with guitar feedback and screeches, experimenting
with getting rid of songs and all the things that normally turn collections of
sounds into “music.” They fell into a category of early-aughts experimental
music that made them comparable to Black Dice and Battles, that seemingly
thought that the problem with “noise-rock” heroes like Sonic Youth or My Bloody
Valentine was that pesky rock getting in the way of the screeching.*

Then, in a change that has been better documented by writers better paid than I,
they listened to the pop charts, and after being inspired by the loud
synthesizers on danceable hits, switched from all that guitar feedback to using
computer-generated instruments that they modeled on them. That feeling on
earworms where a well placed bass note from a shiny, expensive sounding
synthesizer just fills you with the reckless abandon that pop does? They do
that kind of thing, except instead of harnessing it for pop’s youth and
vitality, they make it into a really insane gut-punch.

It’s great on a record. It’s better live.

There are three people on-stage, and one of them doesn’t seem
to do much besides play with some pedals and knobs, occasionally pick up a bass
guitar and strum it once or twice, and wave his long, straight black hair in an
exaggerated windmill. Good lord that man can whip his hair. We’ve all shaken
our heads at music, and we’ve all gotten dizzy from it, but this guy has stamina
for the most rock and roll of head gestures that is just invigorating to watch.

Meanwhile next to him is a guitarist/singer, who makes loud
noises with the former and surprisingly sweet-sounding melodies with the
latter, like sugar laced with dynamite. Every note was louder than possible,
played through enough filters and synthetic amplifiers to be unrecognizable as
a guitar sound. The drummer somehow does that too, banging away at normal drums
and making them sound like they’re the weird drum-ish sounds on a Casio keyboard.**
This is an unbelievably impressive thing to do. He hits the normal, acoustic
drum just like a drummer normally does, and what comes out of the speakers is
the sound of a robot. It’s a reverse Turing test.

The whole show is like that. We all become machines, and we
cheer just as much when the amplifiers play disco-y shimmers as when the wretch
out the ear-splitting horror that opens their album’s single, “STONEFIST,”***
periodically through the concert. We sing along when they finally play it like
it’s Top 40, because in its own way, it is.

The band ends on a crescendo. They were loud. They were
intense. Then they got louder. Then they walked off stage, waited the requisite
break before and encore, and then came back.

They played guitars for this part. They played the kind of
noisy screeches that they would have a few albums and years ago, before they
hit this transformation. They played the kind of noises that are supposed to
hurt your ears, and make your parents worried about your well-being and annoy
your neighbors.

But for that brief outro, they sounded tame. They sounded like
music of the past, when we could all have our eardrums boiled by nothing
crazier than a six string plugged into pedals, and not the fully artificial
synthesizer sounds they use now.

It was an answer to the question I asked at the beginning of
this review. There’s a sound of the vanguard, a sound of the future, a sound
that changes what you think sounds can be.

I think I’ve made it over-abundantly clear that I think HEALTH
are that sound, and that that sound is incredible. I listened to them on record
and heard a sound I’d never heard anything like before. I saw them live and I
went beyond hearing it. I felt it.

*No disrespect meant by this—Battles is awesome.

**This is 100% a good thing. It may not seem like it, but
HEALTH have reclaimed the Casio keyboard’s badly programmed drums. They play
synthesized snares, scratchy blips and handclaps that have never encountered
human hands like Paganini played violin. I would say that HEALTH should become
the official spokesband of Casio, except that I don’t think that anyone, even
Casio, is still selling those old things anymore, and the loud noises would
probably be bad for selling stuff.


Show Review:: The Wilderness Politics Tour 11/21


Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, New Politics and LOLO
Saturday, November 21, 2015
Upstate Concert Hall; Clifton Park, NY
Review and photos by Eric Riley

I’ll be the first to admit that, going into Saturday night’s show, I was already bringing a pretty big bias along. An opener with a serious buzz surrounding her, a co-headliner that has become an international sensation, and a top-billed artist who has consistently been one of my favorites since before high school. So, yeah, it didn’t take a lot of convincing to get me there.

Working a 7am-3pm shift isn’t normally a huge deal, but when there’s a show at 6:00, it becomes a little tiring. So, the idea of stopping for coffee beforehand seemed like a good one. However, the power-nap that I took in the small gap of time between the two ran
a bit longer than expected and I had to skip the Starbucks run. Rushing inside just as opener LOLO took the stage, I was able to get into the photo pit after only missing her entrance and a few seconds of her first song. During her set, I kept thinking of how disappointed I would have been had a Tall White Chocolate Mocha made me late enough to keep me from watching her perform. (Also, I specified what I typically order just in case anybody decides they feel like treating me, just saying).


Donned in a floor-length fur coat flashy enough to make Macklemore melt, her pull-no-punches soulful pop quickly got the crowd stirring. With only vocals and guitar played live, the rest done through sampling and recordings, LOLO, born Lauren Pritchard, was able to set herself as the center of attention without putting the weight of the show strictly on her shoulders. And on a semi-related note, as I write this, Wikipedia just informed that LOLO is the same Lauren Pritchard that performed in Spring Awakening. So not only is she currently killing it under her stage name, she’s a serious double-threat from an original cast that has a shelf full of TONYs to back her up. Sorry, that’s off topic, but it’s still pretty cool.


Following next came New Politics, playing a larger role than I had last seen them in when they opened for Fall Out Boy and Paramore on the Monumentour last summer. When they opened that show, their crazed energy and onstage poise both impressed me, even more so given that they were opening for arguably (though I don’t think you’d have to argue very hard) two of the biggest bands in the world. This time around, in a co-headliner spot, they somehow managed to up the ante even further. Still carrying the same huge liveliness, the trio took full advantage of their extended set and deeper catalog.

Tracks like “Tonight You’re Perfect” and “Berlin” had the crowd roaring, and Andrew McMahon joining the stage briefly elevated this even further. Closing with “Harlem” sent them off stage on a high note, wrapping their set up perfectly while simultaneously setting the bar for the next performance.

As I mentioned previously, I have a bias when it comes to Andrew McMahon. To put it simply, there are few people whom I genuinely admire as much as I do him, and that is only partially due to the fact that he is responsible for penning a handful of the most flawless albums I’ve heard throughout my life (I’m not saying that as a hyperbole; every note and key and word on Everything In Transit is literally perfect and we may need to fight if you say otherwise).


Starting things off with a quiet, softly-lit “Rainy Girl,” McMahon eased the audience into the show, warming everyone up before leading into “Dark Blue” and taking his foot off the brake. Throwing in songs throughout each stage of his career, McMahon appealed to fans from all eras, making sure not to stay with one project for too many songs in a row as well as including a few varied renditions of older songs, like an acoustic take on “Punk Rock Princess” or a smoother, slower, almost lounge singer-esque version of “The Mixed Tape” to begin his three-song encore.

There were a few points where I was pleasantly surprised with the song selection. I wasn’t expecting to hear “I Woke Up In A Car,” nor did I expect “Dark Blue” to be the second song of the evening. “Swim” has always been one of McMahon’s heaviest, strongest pieces and his short introduction before it, speaking first about the recent attacks in Paris and his fight against leukemia, then about his recovery and about the need for safe places and positive thinking, added even more heart to an already crushing song.


I don’t want it to sound like the evening was a total downer. Quite the contrary, actually. Even during the few ballads, the energy in the room never wavered, always holding strong thanks to the echo of the crowd singing every word back to the stage. Later, to close out the initial set, there was a roar throughout the room when McMahon pulled his harmonica from his pocket for “La La Lie.” What is normally a ≈ 3:00 song, give or take a few seconds, turned into an extended performance, with McMahon asking the bar at the center of the venue if they were still serving before swimming on a sea of upstretched arms to grab a shot of Jäger. Upon his return, the three members of New Politics were there waiting for him to help bring the song to a close. And, in McMahon’s words (to the best of my recollection), “he [David Boyd] may have some better moves and six-pack abs, but I’ve never seen him do that!” On that note, I had never seen a show come to an end with a room full of grown adults running around beneath a rainbow-colored gym class parachute, but that’s exactly what happened, so I guess it was a night of firsts for everyone, huh?

Rainy Girl
Dark Blue
Canyon Moon
Holiday From Real
Driving Through A Dream
I Woke Up In A Car
Maps For The Getaway
Punk Rock Princess
All Our Lives
La La Lie

The Mixed Tape
Cecilia and the Satellite

Show Review:: The Wonder Years, Motion City Soundtrack 11/27

The Wonder Years, Motion City Soundtrack, State Champs, You Blew It!
Friday, November 27, 2015
Starland Ballroom; Sayreville, New Jersey
Written by Kelly Peacock

Bands start off local and work their way up to playing thousands of miles away from home. However, there is the sense that home is not necessarily wherever you grew up, but rather wherever the music is. Squished next to hundreds of sweaty people with loving faces, jumping around and pushing each other, I came to the surreal realization that we were all at home.

Kicking off the show was Orlando pop-punkers, You Blew It! who…well…blew me away. The drummer was simply booming with talent as he poured his all into the performance. The lead singer had a raspy voice that jumped between singing and screaming; no matter what he was doing with his vocals, they were strong. There was individual talent between each member that came together harmoniously.

State Champs’ set followed and was an out-of-body experience. The room illuminated with colored lights, flashing in sync with the first note of the guitar and the first boom of the drums in “Secrets,” a song off of their new album Around the World and Back. There was so much energy in the room and so many bodies crowd surfing towards the barricade as we sang along at the top of our lungs until the band’s last song, “Elevated,” from their previous album The Finer Things. State Champs always puts every bit of their being into their performance and I was so happy to be standing in that crowd.

Before the show, I had only listened to a few songs from Motion City Soundtrack, but nothing could compare to the live performance they gave. The band has had a number of albums out since ‘97, so there were a variety of fans of every age in the crowd.  For working as a band as long as they have been, I could practically feel how advanced the playing of their instruments were. The crowd shouted lyrics to fan favorites including “Everything Is Alright,” “My Favorite Accident,” and “The Future Freaks Me Out.” The band’s energy on stage was powerful and there was nothing but pure talent from this group.

Closing off the night was The Wonder Years, who opened with “Brothers &,” from their new album No Closer To Heaven, and
the chilling echo of voices shouting “we’re no saviors if we can’t save our brothers” boomed throughout the venue. Transitioning into “Cardinals” gave me such an elevated feeling. Hearing the live voice of Dan Campbell, the lead vocals of this brilliant band, almost knocked me to the floor. They played my favorite song, “You In January,” with the lights radiating above and behind them, giving off holiness to each body. Each song on their setlist was so much more powerful live, and things ended with an overwhelming cheer.

If you ever have the opportunity to see You Blew It!, State Champs, Motion City Soundtrack and The Wonder Years live, I most definitely think you should go. Drop everything, buy a ticket, and go to the show. Put yourself in the pit and sing your heart out. You can find a home with these people.

Show Review:: Cherub 11/5

Thursday, November 5, 2015
Crystal Ballroom; Portland, OR
Written by Kelsey Rzepecki

Portland could not get enough of Electro Pop duo, Chreub, delighting us all with a long set last Thursday that went into the early morning. The night started with the bass-heavy Hippie Sabotage as the ballroom emerged into a vibrating, up-beat atmosphere playing all of their hit songs including ending their set with the timeless track “Your Soul”.

It wasn’t long before the signature eclectic 80s pop inspired sound of Cherub emerged, automatically heightening the mood. The crowd was
pleasantly surprised, opening with their popular “XOXO”. These two are a definite crowd pleaser as they possess a kind of genuine, fun energy that permanently radiates off the stage.

Their tracks “Work the Middle” and “Tonight” emitted their more
vulnerable, romantic side as you could feel the charismatic, fun-loving vibe. It is clear the two deeply appreciate their fans as they made sure to take minimal breaks between songs in order to keep the dance party going.

It got a little more sensual with their hip-hop inspired “Freaky Me, Freaky You” track with slow, heavy bass as the crowd started coupling up to find a dance partner. During their set, Cherub easily covered all of their hits from their various albums and then some, making for some seriously satisfied fans.

The fans knew what had to come next as Cherub took the stage for
their encore with their hit “Doses & Mimosas” that was the climax to a
phenomenal show. Suddenly the crowd became disoriented as our care-free, fun bubble burst and there we were, back in reality. If you have the chance to check them out touring near you, I would urge you a thousand times, yes!

Show Review:: All Time Low, Sleeping With Sirens 10/23


All Time Low, Sleeping With Sirens, and One OK Rock
Friday, October 23, 2015
The Shrine Expo Hall; Los Angeles, CA
Written by Natasha Mayani

It seems like All Time Low have just had never ending success. This year marked the release of their sixth album, Future Hearts, they filmed a live DVD at Wembley Arena, had a Spring tour supporting Future Hearts and now they’re back again for the Back to the Future Hearts Tour, this time with Sleeping With Sirens, Neck Deep, and One OK Rock.

Sleeping With Sirens is their direct support, and with the dedicated and huge fanbase that they have accumulated throughout the years, I couldn’t think of a better band to join this tour. They kicked off their set with “Kick Me,” one of the singles from Madness, their fourth album that was released earlier this year. Their large logo illuminated the room and drummer, Gabe Barham, is lifted on a tall riser with his drum kit that has him hover over the entire band. Smoke fills up the entire stage as the crowd goes crazy and the band is feeding off their energy.

The band goes on to play an older song, “Do It Now, Remember It Later,” and all the older fans sing their hearts out alongside vocalist, Kellin Quinn. Quinn’s stage presence is one you have to see to truly understand. He knows how to engage the audience, whether that means bouncing around the stage or climbing the speakers and he never misses a beat. Quinn’s vocal range is amazing and it definitely shows off during the band’s acoustic version of “With Ears to See and Eyes to Hear,” and fan favorite, “Roger Rabbit”. Kellin continues to prove that he can do anything by impressively beatboxing during the two songs.

The setlist continues on with a mix of songs from different albums and their set ends with one of their most famous songs, “If You Can’t Hang.” The audience does not disappoint as almost everyone in the room is singing along, some even crowd surfing trying to get on stage. The band’s high energy and mix of songs on the setlist made me pumped and really into watching their set. The next time they come back to town, I know for sure it’ll be worth seeing again.

The time comes for All Time Low to hit the stage. The lights dim, and the beginning guitar riffs to “Satellite” start to fill the room. Frontman, Alex Gaskarth, comes out and all that is visible is his silhouette with blue backlight on him. The crowd goes wild and sings along to every single word. The setlist contained a good mix of their singles and even included some fan favorites like “Poppin’ Champagne.“ Only two songs in and guitarist Jack Barakat has accumulated numerous bras on his microphone stand thrown onto stage by fans in the crowd (are any of us surprised?).

All Time Low are no strangers to the stage, taking advantage of every inch of it, and sometimes you don’t even know where to look because there’s so much to look at; but it’s amazing. Before playing “Missing You,” Gaskarth tells a story about a fan who was an addict and upon listening to this song, it spoke to him and helped him get treatment and overcome his addiction. Gaskarth takes advantage of having this moment on stage and shows the band’s true appreciation of the overwhelming support they have gotten by thanking everyone in the crowd.

As the band finishes playing “Old Scars/Future Hearts,” the crowd starts screaming and chanting All Time Low, being hopeful that they’ll come out and play some more songs. The fans got what they asked for and the band returned for an encore, playing “Kids In The Dark” and “Somethings Gotta Give.” Right as they begin to play their final encore song, “Dear Maria, Count Me In,” Gaskarth announced he will bring someone on stage and it’s no other than 5 Seconds of Summer’s’ Michael Clifford. The crowd goes absolutely insane as Michael comes out to play their last song with them. They first start messing around and play a Green Day cover, but then go right into it.

I have seen All Time Low a lot, but this was definitely one of the best All Time Low shows I’ve ever been to. There hasn’t been a show where they had the same performance because each show feels like a mix of a comedy stand-up and a pop-punk show. Their raunchy humor and their passion for their art is what sets this band from everyone else. All Time Low are one of the most genuine bands out there, and seeing them live is something you will not regret.

Show Review: Frank Turner 9/25

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, with Skinny Lister & Beans on Toast
House of Blues; Boston, MA // September 25th, 2015.
Written by Eric Riley.

Despite the commonness of the names, there’s only one Frank Turner. (Well, I’m sure there are plenty of Frank Turners, but there’s only one that matters.) ((Actually, that sounds really mean to any other Frank Turners out there, who I’m sure are fine, upstanding men. I think you get the point I’m getting at, yes?))

The weekend of the 25th was very busy for me. The span of four days contained three bus rides, two full days at a music festival, and one night at the House of Blues, all connected by a handful of rides on the T throughout Boston and with enough Diet Coke to probably be concerned over. If this sounds like complaining, I apologize – each minute was wild from start to finish, and Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls kicked it off in style.

A pair of Xtra Mile labelmates helped lead off the night, with Jay McAllister AKA Beans On Toast taking the stage first. Armed with songs written about everything from love and loss and heartbreak to the growing industry of farm-raised chickens to how terrible the South is, McAllister handled it all with a bit of charm, some fun banter, and a lot of love for what he does.

Next, London six-piece Skinny Lister made their way back to Boston, following up after an opening slot for Dropkick Murphys on St. Patrick’s Day last March. Though I was only able to catch the tail-end of their set last time around, I knew it was something I was disappointed about missing – Lorna Thomas kicking and dancing around stage, Michael Camino lifting and swinging a double bass over his head, the half-dozen members passing around an old clay jug. And that was only the last five minutes. This time around, it was the same story, but getting to check out the full performance made it much better, watching the performance grow into the rambunctious party rather than just walking in on the end of it.

With another House of Blues show the next night, as well as an in-store at Newbury Comics Sunday afternoon, Turner would have a few chances to leave another mark on Boston. Sure, there were still two more shows to go, but why waste a perfectly good Friday night?

The night started with a varied trio of songs – the racing “Get Better,” followed by “If Ever I Stray” and a full-band version of “Long Live the Queen,” which the band seems to favor more lately as opposed to the original version. It’s always interesting to see them transform the heartwrenching acoustic ballad into a fast, electric number, and though they scrap the unplugged guitars, the passion and intensity is the same, with Turner ending the song with his eyes nestled inside the inner corner of his elbow and bassist Tarrant Anderson kneeling on the ground, holding his bass upright and resting his forehead against the headstock.

Plenty of favorites, both new and old, made their way into the setlist: “Plain Sailing Weather,” “I Am Disappeared,” and “Mittens” brought roars of applause, as “Polaroid Picture,” “Glory Hallelujah,” and closer “I Still Believe” grew into full-room singalongs. In an effort to always keep the room’s energy high, Turner brought McAllister to the stage to lead the exercise routine during “Recovery,” which called for star-jumps (which are apparently what English people call jumping jacks, because that’s adorable) during the choruses. Ending the second encore on a high note, “Four Simple Words” brought the night to an end by showing respect to the music and the scene that makes everything possible.

After 1,733 shows (and yes, they keep track), how do you make Number 1,734 special? A setlist of songs from every record, a sold-out venue, and a chance to do it all again the next night seems like a promising formula. Being one of the most consistent live acts around doesn’t hurt, either. This was my fifth or sixth time seeing Frank Turner perform, and I’m doing what I do after any other time – just sitting and waiting until the next time I get to.

Set list:
Get Better
If Ever I Stray
Long Live The Queen
Out of Breath
Glorious You
I Am Disappeared
Polaroid Picture
The Opening Act of Spring
The Ballad of Me and My Friends
Love Ire & Song
Plain Sailing Weather
Glory Hallelujah
Reasons Not To Be An Idiot
The Road
The Next Storm
I Still Believe

The Road
The Next Storm
I Still Believe

Encore II:
The Angel Islington
The Way I Tend to Be
Try This At Home
Four Simple Words

Show Review:: Sheppard, Lawson 6/25/15

Sheppard, Lawson
The Hollow – Albany, NY
Saturday, July 25th, 2015
Review and photos by Eric Riley.

Having somewhere to be on a cloudy, rainy Saturday night is pretty ideal. When it’s a small, dark barroom playing catchy angry/bitter/less-than-totally-happy music, it’s even better. Looking around, the show was looking like it was going to be a pretty sparsely-attended one, withhhh (gimme a second to count…) thirtyyyy…. -two people on the floor ten minutes before the show was scheduled to start. But, there’s still time, and with how Sheppard’s music combines energy and emotion, this small number is sure to get bigger.

I always feel a little out of place in the bar scene. Even though I’m 23, and with my 24th birthday very quickly approaching, my baby-face stands out a bit. Add in a not-so-crowded audience of people (who, despite all probably being around my age, still all look older?) and things are a bit unsettling. But, again, who cares!? There’s music to be played (and I wrote this entire paragraph mostly to make myself look busy or important as I stood off to the side by myself with my camera in my hand. Type type type avoid eye contact avoid eye contact don’t somehow trip and fall. Confidence is key, y’all.).


With 8:00 drawing nearer, the room’s total reached the mid-40’s, bearing down on 50 and steadily growing. The woman selling merch is nice. The bouncer has a cool beard. They’re playing Passion Pit’s “Take A Walk” over the PA, which is always fun. Also I’m starting to think that the show is an 8:30 start time and the Internet lied to me yet again.

Openers Lawson kicked things off at 8:30. Very punctual, always a good thing. Providing support from the UK, the four-piece carried a buzz throughout the room in an instant. With huge guitar solos, an infectious pop sound, and a foreign touch, they won over new fans [myself included] in no time at all (or, rather, seven songs). Introducing the track “Juliet,” vocalist Andy Brown mentioned how it was “huge for them in the UK,” which normally makes me laugh a little because that is usually a joke about a band not making it big, buuut with them being from the UK and the track being a fucking ripper (I just saw that term online and now I like it a lot), this is an exception to the joke.

Lawson squeezing onto a stage that is smaller than my bedroom (which is pretty small, don’t think I live in some mansion or something) was impressive. But watching the six members of Sheppard somehow manage to spread themselves out, with room to jump around, was straight-up skillful. Must be family chemistry.

One of the most energetic groups I’ve watched in a decent while, Sheppard had their crowd breaking a sweat by the end of the opening song. Equally enjoyable as their energy, the band’s gratitude was present and massive. The group paused after nearly each song to graciously thank the crowd, with lead vocalist George [Sheppard] (three of the members share the same last name, so I’m going to refer to them by first name from here on out) at one point shouting “this is insane! We’re from the other side of the freaking planet! And there are people here! To watch us play music! And you know the words! There could be one dude and I’d love it, but look at this shit, there’s a room full of ya!”

Being in the center of the room with a bit of space around had me feeling like Mena Suvari during their cover of “Teenage Dirtbag.” Though this probably sounds unprofessional, Bassist Emma bashfully singing the female guest spot, then waving herself away and stepping back before she could finish was adorable and that’s the most accurate way I can think to put it.

In the instrumental bridge leading into “Find Someone,” (my favorite from Bombs Away) George talked about how it was going to be a bit of a shift – “We’ve got some good vibes going on in here! But this next song is … not so good vibes. It’s my ‘bad day gotta let out some aggression’ song.” After it came to a close, he breathed an exaggerated sigh. “But I’m better now, got that all outta my system! Back to the good vibes!”

As the night drew to an end, it was obvious “Geronimo” was going to wrap things up. “It’s time for our last one. We’re so sorry! You all probably knew what this one is gonna be,” Amy joked. The smash single went off without a hitch, and though this band is much more than just that song, they made it clear why this one is their frontrunner. Before the final chorus, we all crouched to our knees so we could spring up for the last “SAY GERONIMO.” Too fun.

Seemingly a bit of a secret, tonight was my first night seeing a show at The Hollow, which has stealthily crept its way to the #2 ranked music venue in Upstate NY. And though my camera equipment may not agree so much with the lighting, leading the night to be pretty much a swing-and-a-miss photographically, the sound system was supreme and the tight room, which can’t be more than thirty feet wide (and that’s being generous) felt anything but cramped. So sure, while I may not have been the biggest fan of this place from a photographer’s standpoint, as a music fan, I see myself going back there indefinitely. Dynamite performances from two stellar bands probably helped to sway that decision a bit, but who’s keeping score?

Lawson have new music on the way, and Sheppard said they’re already working on album #2. Getting the chance to see both of these bands’ first shows in Albany was a treat in itself, but when these two are selling out venues 10x bigger than where they played tonight, me and the sixty or so people in there tonight will get to remember this one for a while. (Also, just one last thing – all night, I couldn’t help but think “Lawson and Sheppard” sounds like an accounting firm or something. Right? Okay, I’m out.)


Show Review:: Shakey Graves 5/27

Shakey Graves
Wednesday, May 27th, 2015
Crystal Ballroom; Portland, OR

A big “Howdy Ya’ll!“ came from the voice of Alejandro Rose-Garcia, better known as Shakey Graves, as he introduced himself with a friendly toothy grin to the audience on Wednesday night. The Pacific Northwest was granted a little dose of Southern Hospitality that night as the historic Crystal Ballroom was transformed into a sweaty, funky folk love fest. Strong scents of incense and body odor were the recipe for a lively audience with
nothing but smiles.

The singer-songwriter from Houston, TX has deemed himself to be more of a one-man show, but tonight he was accompanied by another backup guitarist and drummer beginning with lengthy guitar jams. The familiar track “House of Winston” began to play as constant foot stomping vibrations from the floor heightened.

The unexpected presence of the accompanied band helped to add a heavier rock n’ roll element compared to his otherwise more acoustic sounds of most of his music – especially in the upbeat track, “The Perfect Parts.” Shakey Graves also did a decent job of balancing his set out by slowing it down with mellow, romantic tracks such as “Proper Fence” as he recalled an anecdote of young love he found at the age of seventeen.

The charisma and musical ability was impossible to ignore in the slower, more sensitive songs like “If Not For You” while the quirky “Pansy Waltz” was a classic portrayal of Shakey Graves’ pure originality. You could see his spastic facial expressions and delicately flailing arms moving to the beat of the music; Alejandro’s signature raspy wails sounding just as perfect as if you were playing him from your own speakers.

Covering the majority of tracks off his most recent album, And The War Came, the absence of Esmé Patterson was the missing link in the nights set alongside Shakey Graves in delivering a wholesome performance. During their popular duet in “Dearly Departed,” the audience failed miserably trying to pick up the slack, singing along with her verse in the song. It was unfortunate as they both had recently performed together just days earlier at the Sasquatch! Music Festival.

The show concluded with a stripped down encore of the hit “Hard Wired,” a prime example of Shakey Graves’ genuine style as a musician. The night was a celebration of enjoying being alive filled with an explosion of heart-pumping, toe-tapping dancing. Shakey Graves oozes a hauntingly beautiful, rugged and raw element through his music and showmanship that is truly one of a kind.