It’s not easy to make it as a touring band these days. Constant expenses can make traveling pretty heavy on the nerves, and most bands barely break even. Despite all this, a group of friends like the members of Voxhaul Broadcast, Ocean Grove, and Robert Schwartzman still manage to make it seem like an effortless good time.
These guys played the Vinyl on Tuesday to a disappointingly small audience—it was clear that all parties had the chops to fill much bigger venues. The Vinyl’s somewhat peripheral location likely had something to do with this, but the bands performed with the same fervor and intensity that they would have employed for a full house.
One of the most striking aspects of the show was the average age of the audience members—it appeared as though most of them hadn’t yet escaped their teenage years, and the majority of those were female. The music of Ocean Grove and, to a lesser extent, Schwartzman, lent itself to this kind of attention, but Voxhaul Broadcast’s fast-paced indie rock didn’t seem to be the typical fare of teen movies (although their song “Rotten Apples” was featured on the ABC television program Ugly Betty).
Robert Schwartzman, better known as the lead vocalist for Rooney, opened up the show with a solo set featuring some accompaniment on keyboards and drums. The latter part of Schwartzman’s set consisted only of him and his acoustic guitar. His plucking at the heartstrings of the audience was nearly tangible, and his set would prove to be a nice contrast to the later ones. Schwartzman joined the tour to promote his newest release, Double Capricorn, which dropped last week. All of the proceeds from album sales, he told the audience, would go toward his friend’s charity, the Tibetan Healing Fund, to help build hospitals in Tibet. Although the decision is a noble one, it’s a surprising move for a recently-solo artist.
Ocean Grove promptly took the stage after Schwartzman’s exit, and their brand of poppy alt-rock was well received by the crowd. Ocean Grove had all of the polish one might expect of the Jonas Brothers’ backing band, performing a nearly equal mix of classic rock-inspired numbers and slower, Americana-tinged ballads. Although they sounded extremely professional and well-practiced, the set was almost suspiciously tight. Their music lacked much of the soulfulness and originality for which audiophiles yearn, but it was perfectly suited for its environment and was generally enjoyed by the audience.
The reasons that Voxhaul Broadcast headlined the event were clear—their set was by far the most dramatic, and they commanded the stage with experienced prowess. Their sound was rougher around the edges than either of the previous acts, and they had a ferocity that wasn’t present before they took the stage. Hard rockers Muse likely weigh in heavy on their list of influences, as Voxhaul’s theatrical rock was dynamic in a way similar to theirs. The crowd had already begun to dwindle by the time they began their set, which was a shame because they really put everything into their performance.
After the show, the bands took off to Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping-Pong Emporium (better known simply as “Church”), a bar in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. The way the members of all of the groups jovially sat around and shared drinks with one another made it clear that they were no more than a group of old friends out to have a good time and turn a buck. It was refreshing to see a group of musicians that, despite their varied successes in the industry, maintained a humble levelheadedness that has all but disappeared among many of their contemporaries.
Although some of the music was a bit vanilla, the bands performed without a hitch in any regard, and for that they deserved a much bigger audience. All three groups were composed of talented musicians who know how to play a rock show like nobody’s business, which made the crowd’s small size and lack of liveliness somewhat surprising. It would be a wise choice to see any of these bands next time they pass through town, and judging by how much fun they appeared to have it won’t be long before they do.