The Royale was packed to the gills as I edged my way in on a cold Friday night. Because of the ever-earlier start times on shows in Boston, I had unfortunately missed the opener, Belle Brigade – which is a crying shame. This brother/sister duo out of LA play a uniquely sweet brand of folk tinged indie rock, and are garnering praise wherever they play. I was truly sorry to miss their set, but I feel sure I’ll be able to see them again soon as their star is on the rise.
Co-headliner Dawes was onstage, and I had to suppress a giddy desire to hop up and down gleefully. I would be lying if I said I knew of Dawes before Middle Brother’s gorgeously gritty debut album was hyped at the beginning of 2011 – and, yes, I am embarrassed by this admission. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to finally see Dawes live, and I was not disappointed in the least. Taylor Goldsmith and his brother Griffin drove their set with raw energy that belied the early set time, and the band powered through newer material from their excellent second album “Nothing is Wrong” while still playing apparent crowd favorites from their debut “North Hills.”
No one I know likes, or even really knows of Dawes, so I was surreally thrilled to hear the fans singing along enthusiastically to songs like “When My Time Comes” and “Fire Away.” Together with the glee of being among a huge crowd of like-minded music lovers, Dawes’ beautiful harmonies, and Taylor’s excellent guitar work, the band’s set left me ecstatic. I could have left The Royale happy and satisfied after Dawes covered “Kodachrome” by Paul Simon (!) and closed with “Time Spent in Los Angeles,” but the moment Blitzen Trapper took the stage I was glad I was still there.
Blitzen Trapper is an Oregon band I found by combing through the SubPop website in the hopes of replacing my decade-old, decrepit SubPop t-shirt. Yes, I am embarrassed by this admission, as well. The fact is, good music is good music, and SubPop is a record company whose ear for quality and innovation is one I’ve trusted for a very long time. Blitzen Trapper’s albums do not disappoint, and as I found on this incredible evening, their live performance is even better.
On tour promoting the much-lauded “American Goldwing,” Blitzen Trapper blasted through their tight set with gusto. It took a little time for the band to really hit their stride – maybe the ridiculously early set times were effecting them – but when they did, it was pure rock n roll. Their folk-rock sound has been injected with 70’s grit on “American Goldwing,” and it’s a beautiful thing. Eric Early related to the enthusiastic crowd like a star, but never distracted from the set that flowed from good to better to blistering.
“Street Fighting Sun” was a stand out barn-burner that made us all forget the arctic weather outdoors, and paved the way perfectly for the surprising, but completely welcome and appropriate encore of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times.” Blitzen Trapper could have played for another hour, and I would have been fine with it. As it was, the ridiculously early show ended with a bang, and I suspect many in the crowd wandered off to find a shot of whiskey to cap this night of delicious rock.
Jonah Parzen-Johnson at Lilypad
Jonah Parzen-Johnson has an innate ability to make the baritone sax sound like bagpipes, and maybe that’s why I cried.
Mostly I cried because Jonah tells radiant stories with his saxophone and analog synth, working the brass and pedals to recreate the framework which surrounds his album Remember When Things Were Better Tomorrow: Parzen-Johnson wanted to make “something of myself that’s for everybody else.”
Jonah opened his set with “Stay There, I’ll Come to You,” showcasing the harmony between synth and sax right off the bat. With haunting lilts, the two combined into a ribbon of melody, pulsating inside the ear as well as the heart. Much like the song’s title, Jonah was the one approaching the audience as an experimental troubadour of tête-à-tête.
The back stories and thoughts behind each song tied in so well with the raw, almost throaty sax, developing such strong, emotional resonance with the musical layers. The skeleton shook.
Speedy Ortiz “riiiiise above and gliiiiiide away” at The Sinclair
The Sinclair was a packed house Wednesday night for the Speedy Ortiz CD release party; as a hometown gig for the Northampton, MA-based band, kinetic warmth buzzed through friends and fans alike as Sadie Dupuis and crew played their freshly-release Foil Deer track-by-track.
What’s a party without some guests, though? That’s where Krill and Mitski come in.
Krill kicked off the night with some tracks from A Distant Fist Unclenching, other goods from Lucky Leaves. Lead singer/bassist Jonah Furman brought to mind early (read: good) Billy Corgan, which I’m not sure he will appreciate. But I think he’ll appreciate this: I couldn’t stop laughing because then I kept thinking about Marilyn Manson telling Billy Corgan that he looked like Charlie Brown.
Opening with “Theme from Krill,” the Boston trio has a knack for rhythm and melody that burrows into your brain. The dreamy bleakness of “Purity of Heart.” The discordant garage rock and hiccupping guitar and warbly Scooter-ness of “Foot.” Krill’s sound is a good, comfy noise that keeps you wiggling and all that good stuff. Be sure to catch the band at Boston Calling.
Years & Years at Royale Boston
During winter storm Juno, UK electro pop group Years & Years were forced to cancel the first show of their two-night stint in New York City back in January. After the snow finally melted, they made the rounds again this past March, playing several shows in California, South by Southwest before finally landing in Boston.
Due to popular demand, the show was moved from The Sinclair to the Royale in downtown’s Theater District.
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