Woefully under-appreciated Tennessean band The Features have been around for quite a while, valiantly trudging through the finicky music landscape—they found some solid ground following the alt-rock advent of 2008 when Some Kind of Salvation quietly appeared the subsequent summer. The waves may have been small, but demonstrated a deft balance of alt-country, rock, and psychedelia. Back for their recent release Wilderness, The Features played at Allston’s Great Scott Thursday night, supported by acts Around the World and Back and Township.
Around the World and Back proved a capable supplement to the night’s sound, invoking dreamy ambiance that recalled U2’s early collaborations with Brian Eno, while still wholly rock and a sound of their own. The foursome from Albany—Bryan Shortell, Marco Testa, Matt Ippolito, and Jared Bashant, carried out their vocals and instrumentals effectively, tracks from their album Big Beat. Opening with the astral and catchy “Old Man,” Around the World and Back had every member play to their strengths, highlighting the roaring percussion, atmospheric finger picking and ambient keyboard and vocals. Showing off their range with the sinister and foreboding “Slave,” the anthemic “Alone,” the meditative “Underneath the Sun,” and “Eighteen,” Around the World and Back nailed their set.
Boston based group Township followed, all members bearded and decked out in plaid. Starting off with “Pushing Metal to the Bone,” Township brought to mind Heart with a hurtling “Barracuda”-esque riff that sailed right into Foo Fighters territory. Their influences proved to move beyond grudge elements and 80’s hair metal; capable guitar work served as tribute to Kansas, Ace Frehley, Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy and early Aerosmith. “All Your Stuff” was a toe tapping Zeppelin-type track, incorporating Plant’s mewling and feverish guitar. “Golden Light” rollicked from a SoCal rock with retro elements that, when live, was vocally reminiscent of Chris Cornell’s husky wails. Township seemed more in their element with the classic rock sound despite hopping from genre to genre.
Even if their present following isn’t huge, the patrons of Great Scott squished onto the floor space to watch The Features do their thing. Willing to cull from their vast catalog, The Features treated the audience to the ferocious “That’s The Way It’s Meant To Be” as Matt Pelham raspy-belted and remarkably shifted to the gentle and playful lilt for “Whatever Gets You By” (which is too brief a song). Pelham, along with Roger Dabbs, Rollum Haas, and Mark Bond, jammed to the distinctive alt-rock sound with dashes of forceful western/folk resonance, spacey and new wave. Excellent harmonies on the bouncy “The Temporary Blues” and earnest cries in “The Drawing Board” got the audience to go along in the rousing howls. “Big Mama Gonna Whip Us Good” (“it’s about a big mama,” said Pelham) had a crackling and jarring guitar that exploded into a deceivingly jolly and psychedelic warning about the environment.
The night couldn’t go on without “Lions,” and the crowd was thrilled to hear it; “Lions” got the room to chant along as the blue, orange, yellow and green lights flickered over them and sparkled like candy colored confetti. The lighting became subdued for “Thursday,” the rollicking song from the Lake Fever Sessions that sweetened with quirky beep-boops from the keyboard. The crowd engaged once more in the call and response “La da da das.” The lights darkened completely for an a capella before igniting back into the instrumentals.
The Features departed. Someone yelled out “More! One more time!” The wait was such that an encore almost seemed uncertain, but sure enough, the band members hopped back on to the stage with “Exhibit A.” As they played, The Features performed without any stage lights—then a back spotlight appeared, casting playful shadows on the dark curtain behind them.
The Features managed to display skilled variety across two major releases, and their future looks bright.