TVD Live Shots:
Rayland Baxter and Illiterate Light at the Hamilton, 1/12

Opening the night for Rayland Baxter’s “Wide Awake” tour, two-member experimental rock band Illiterate Light took the stage. Taking in Jake Cochran’s minimalist drum setup and John Gorman’s synth base, it was easy to anticipate not hearing anything that might fit the evening’s expectations.

But well before the show, the pit was packed with fans who were ready to see them. You could chalk it up to the fact that they hail from nearby Harrisonburg, VA, but you’d be mistaken. Once their set started, the sound and energy that came from these two was entrancing. They had clear chemistry on stage, each carefully watching the other to perfectly time their rhythm and harmonies. But most impressive was their ability to turn up the volume, with Gorman stomping the synth base and nailing guitar solos while Cochran’s sang (screamed?) in a way that can only be described as primal.

They were a perfect opener for Baxter, who wasted no time taking the stage and harnessing that energy. Long-time listeners may be more accustomed to songs like “Olivia” and “Yellow Eyes,” both low-key alt-country songs that are excellent, but more suitable for a quiet evening in than a rock show. Opening with the first song from his new album, Strange American Dream, Baxter left anyone in the crowd expecting a quiet set—at least in this listener’s case—pleasantly mistaken. However, after about an hour, the 6-piece band left the stage, turned down the lights and sound, and left Baxter alone to do what he does best.

He treated the crowd to songs from his new album and played some old favorites. Most moving was his encore, which he prefaced with a statement about his sadness over the loss of the late Mac Miller, who passed last year. He played a heartfelt and somber cover of Miller’s “Come Back to Earth,” leaving the audience silent.

At over an hour-and-half on stage, there was something for everyone. At times it felt like a rock show, others a festival, and of course, an intimate acoustic set.


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