PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | The crowd is gathered close to the band, singing every word to every song and casually chatting up singer/guitarist James Alex Snyder between breaks in the music. The band brings friends and other artists from the show on stage to take over bass duties or sing a song. Their set, crafted with old stuff, new stuff, and a few covers, is a tight 45 minutes.
Based on just the facts as written—and honestly the feel during the show—it could easily be mistaken for a local “scene” show in someone’s living room. Except it wasn’t. It was Beach Slang’s last night on tour with indie rock luminaries Cursive, playing to a room full of kids who desperately looked forward to seeing both bands.
There’s a certain amount of casualness around how Beach Slang goes about their business and Snyder is the center of it. He’s incredibly charming and polite, both one-and-one and on-stage. He’s so likeable, it builds a connection with anyone he interacts with. Success has been building fast, but the band is grounded. All of the members of the band have previously been involved in other projects (Snyder in Weston, bassist Ed McNulty in NONA and Crybaby, and drummer JP Flexner in Ex-Friends), so the band seems relaxed to the ebb and flow.
The band left their entire set list in plain view under a spotlight towards the front of the stage. Everyone in the first few rows could clearly see they planned two songs for the encore. That didn’t stop them from waiting backstage for several minutes while the young audience screamed their own brains out. A guy in the crowd yelled, “Thank you!” and followed it up with “Yeah, bitch!” when the band finally came back on stage.
Before the last song, lead singer Nicholas Thorburn said, “It’s been six, eight years since I’ve been here?”
“Six years,” someone yelled back.
“Too long. Like in that David Bowie song, ‘Six Years.’”
The crowd applauded with loving zeal after every song—any song. They whistled and screamed their excitement, and Islands deserved it. Their live show was full of faithful reproductions of the album versions—like watching the band nail take after take in the studio.
The tracks sounded so faithful thanks mostly to the backing band’s perfectionist instrumental aptitude. The Gordon brothers, Evan and Geordie, switched adeptly between playing keyboards and bass and guitar. They not only replicated the notes and arrangements of every song, but the very tone of their instruments was spot on and uncannily similar, which is a hard thing to replicate live.
I was a little worried during the first few songs as Thorburn’s vocals were buried under the instruments, making it hard to pick out the vocal melodies let alone any actual lyrics. After the second song, he asked for “more vocals,” and the sound was brought into a perfect equilibrium.
PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | Mario Cuomo, singer from The Orwells, stands stage left, blankly staring. Is he pissed? Is he thinking? Is he just fucked up? It’s unclear.
He takes a step forward, and the magic happens. The crowd, both men and women, reach forward to touch him. To stroke his chest and long, curly hair; running their fingers over anything they can grab. Cuomo seems detached, in the most engaging way possible. His mental distance from everything casts a cloud. What the fuck is this?
Just then is the breakthrough. He soaks it in for a minute, takes a step backs and slyly smiles. That’s it. Just the softening of his eyes and a shit-eating grin shows that he knows he has everyone eating this up.
The Orwells are the wet dream for people with preconceived notions of how a band from the midwest’s backstory should read. Teenage kids in the suburbs get together and start fucking around with music while in high school. They make some stuff they think is cool, record it, submit it to an indie label with a blog, and get signed. Real storybook stuff.
PHOTOS: JARED PERRY | It’s going to be hard avoiding “hospitality” puns in this review. The band was just so damn nice and inviting. Most headliners hang out backstage, waiting to rock their fans’ faces off, but not Hospitality. They were on a mission to be just another three people at a show in Cleveland—they just happened to be headlining the show, too.
Before the show even began, they walked around Coventry, checking out the neighborhood around the Grog Shop. They ate together as a band at Chipotle (I thought this was a dining mistake, but they never asked me restaurant suggestions). During the opening acts, they hung out in the back of the crowd or at the bar almost the entire time.
At one point, Greta Kline, the lead singer of opening act Frankie Cosmos, invited all the members of the other opening band, Porches (where Kline also plays bass), and Hospitality on stage with her to play the last song. Musically, it was a terrible idea. Ten people played a song most of them probably didn’t really know.
Toward the end, Kline yelled, “Everybody solo!” and they all did exactly that, creating a noise that was the audio equivalent of having 100 kindergarteners draw on one sheet of paper. But Hospitality didn’t mind obliging, and that wasn’t the point anyway. They cared about fun and they cared about inclusion.
KENDON A. LUSCHER FOR TVD | It’s August in Cleveland. It’s humid outside. All the shows on TV either suck or are depressing. The big summer movie involves a talking raccoon. Let’s face it, you want to go somewhere air-conditioned, get drunk, and listen to music.
May I recommend Hospitality? They’re coming to the Grog Shop on Wednesday night, and they are pretty bitchin’. This is a band you don’t have to be familiar with to enjoy their show. Imagine an alternate universe where Camera Obscura is more interested in rocking and being cool than making you want to slit your wrists. That’s the elevator pitch for Hospitality.
Hospitality’s self-titled first album is full of upbeat, fun twee-pop. The band is from Brooklyn, but lead singer Amber Papini apes a British accent for no other reason that I can figure out than it sounds kind of cool. This is especially true on their first album where the fake accent is turned up to 11 and the backing band plays their twee arrangements politely behind her. Everything is bright and happy and oh-so-fun.
PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | Potential can be a real bitch sometimes. When you have potential, you have the tools to succeed and have a level of talent that is far above your peers. You’re right there and you can see success over the horizon. However, on the flip side, that horizon is so far away. Forget the hard work and all the bullshit to get to the place you want to be, sometime there’s just dumb luck and breaks that need to happen to get there.
Last Friday night at the Grog Shop, I saw two acts that I would bet on making it on the music scene—Honeyblood and Jenna Fournier.
I swear this Honeyblood thing is going to happen. However, you’d never know from their show at the Grog Shop that this is a band I’d be ready to bet on. The club wasn’t packed or raucous by any means; sparsely attended with a good number of those people being friends/family of the two local openers.
But while watching Honeyblood play, it all makes sense why you could see them reach an impressive level of success and is a band worthy of your attention.
First of all, sonically they are completely infectious and their sound takes you back to the distorted oasis that was the ’90s. It’s a fuzzy and crunchy mix of alt rock with hooks that are catchy as hell. Singer/guitarist Stina Tweeddale (bonus point for an awesome name) has a bubblegum sweetness to her voice that makes every song approachable, but there’s a smirk or darkness that lays just around the corner of every word. Drummer Shona McVicar provides a simple backbone and adds layers of harmonies that bring the songs to life.
Extraneous bullshit always draws us to bands.
Nirvana had the Kurt Cobain cult of personality. The Stones had drugs. Led Zeppelin had groupies. Ozzie had the Alamo thing. The Stooges had Iggy smearing himself with peanut butter and cutting himself on stage. There are a million other examples, but for better or worse there has to be a certain amount of myth around a band to make the general public sit up and take notice.
DIIV is in the business of myth building. Pop singer girlfriend? Absolutely. Alleged(?) drug use? Check. Comparisons to rock icons? You know it. High-end modeling gigs? Yup.
Not to say any of this is intentional or crafted to make the band a brand, but there’s a lot of non-music stuff going on here to sort through. Being candid, I would have never heard of them without all this shit surrounding them. All over the world there are talented, but uninteresting, bands toiling in bars for good reason. We all love the hype.
Go back to my initial list there for a second. While all those bands had myth that pushed them over the edge, all were fucking incredible artists. So the question stands: can DIIV play?
Music fans of Cleveland, pay attention! I present you with a difficult, but essential, choice of plans this Friday evening. There are two awesome shows in town and you should go to one of them. Which one? I don’t know. Read on and make this important life decision carefully.
At Happy Dog you have Amen Dunes, which is a totally rad show. Amen Dunes is the project of Damon McMahon that grew out of a collection of songs he wrote 2006. After shelving those songs and giving up music, he packed up and moved to China.
Unbeknownst to McMahon, the tapes from his 2006 session were being passed along to music people of note in America and he was gaining a critical reputation for the work he had done. A career spawned from half the globe away. Crazy how this world works, huh?
KENDON A. LUSCHER FOR TVD | I was prepared to be disappointed. I watched videos of other Fucked Up shows, and they seemed kinetic with shirtless front man Damian Abraham screaming into a moshing, ballistic crowd. Abraham came out with his shirt on and the crowd had been listless at best through two opening acts. Maybe a subdued audience was all we were going to get on a random July Wednesday night.
Abraham came out swinging his microphone in wide arcs. I waited for the crowd to explode as the band played “Paper the House” from their excellent new album, Glass Boys, but they didn’t. His shirt even came off halfway through the song, revealing his everyman’s belly and intricate chest tattoo. Some fans bobbed and swayed by the stage. The fans in the back stood still. This was not what I expected.
Then all hell broke loose on the second song.
Abraham held the microphone into the crowd, moving it expertly from person to person with each word before moving it back to his own mouth and attacking the song. The front of the stage turned into a pit with people jumping up onto the stage and into the crowd in a flashing instance.
PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | Maybe I have America Fever because it’s the Fourth of July weekend, but I felt pretty patriotic seeing Patrick Sweany at Mahall’s last week.
Although he’s most often associated with the blues, Sweany isn’t a bluesman at all. He’s everything that came after that which was inspired by the blues. The amalgamation of soul, blues, and country. A melting pot with of all those uniquely American styles. Rock ‘n’ Roll.
I fantasize that if you drive across the country on Route 66, get off at any exit in the middle of America and walk into a bar, this is the type of music you would hear. Sadly, you don’t. He represents some ideal that was true long ago, yellowing somewhere in a photograph or under an inch of dust on a record.
But here was Sweany, performing the American dream right there on stage. Most of it influenced by some of the giants of early blues, rock, country, and soul, but never coming off as derivative. While many artists try to show off their influences as a badge of honor, Sweany blends and makes these sounds something of his own.
Over the course of the two-hour show, Sweany stomped out songs from his extensive catalog of music, touching every single genre from his massive array of influences. Bluesy rocky? Check. Slow soul burn? Yup. Twangy country? Absolutely. ’50s rock? You got it. It was all there through a thick reverb that was irresistible to a music purist.