Wednesday evening was a great one at Brighton Music Hall, playing host to von Grey and Company of Thieves and their winter tour.
von Grey took the stage, four baby-faced sisters from Atlanta supporting their fantastic self-titled EP, peppered with additional material. The girls have a natural presence together, all at once comfortable with each other and also in performing in front of an audience. Annika and Fiona tackled most of the vocals together, with Kathryn on the cello and mandolin, and Petra on the keyboard and occasional use of the lap steel. Together, their chemistry forged a studied grasp of haunting Americana and alt-country.
There was a mix of released tracks and other songs, from “Upset Me,” “Chained to You,” and “Ghosts.” A cover of Damien Rice’s “Volcano” was thrown in the mix. “Take Me Down,” off the EP, was originally a sweet love song. Annika said she got in the mood to write it after seeing a chick-flick, not usually her thing, but it inspired the song nonetheless. Down the line, the song transformed into a “mutual drowning,” spurred by a crush turning into an agonizing frustration.
Another great cover popped into the set, “dedicated to all the pretty ladies” in Brighton Music Hall. von Grey performed Tom Jones’ “She’s a Lady,” interpolating a little of “Pumped Up Kicks” at the very end. It was fresh and sexy.
At the end of their set, von Grey closed with “Ashes,” a new piece created after a drive from Vancouver to Atlanta. It was a long ride, one in which the girls saw a lot of bare land and deforestation—the song was haunting without being preachy. von Grey better have more releases soon, because their material is amazing as it is, but live, the girls’ melodies and instrumentals have the quality of a plains thunderstorm, loud and all-consuming.
Company of Thieves hit the stage with their acoustic set, Genevieve Schatz and Marc Walloch stripping down their sound for an intimate and warm tour. I overheard someone saying that Genevieve was like a ballerina, and it was true; during every song, she emoted gracefully at the right times, her arms serving as an extension of the pair’s performance. When opening with “Look Both Ways,” Genevieve stroked her collarbone with a flourish when she sang, “Karen went to the store, but she forgot her pearls.”
The set had a very casual attitude, as Marc and Genevieve invited the audience to make requests and chat. When asked when Company of Thieves got their start, Genevieve answered, “Marc and I started this band in 2006. We have a full band, but always wanted to do an acoustic tour.” With the open invitation for requests, the set list changed around completely, making it a night of improvisation for the band and on the fly alterations.
After new song “Window,” “Afterthought,” and a cover of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor,” Genevieve asked the audience if they wanted to hear an old song or a new song. After cries of “Both!” Marc and Genevieve laughed before delving into Nina Simone’s “In the Dark.”
As a result of Company of Thieves planned set and the audience requests, the show proved to show off a wide range of material, from “Tallulah,” “New Letters,” “Even in the Dark,” “Two Time,” and “Oscar Wilde,” making for a rich night. Genevieve and Marc close the show with “Won’t Go Quietly,” appropriate for this band and their fans as Company of Thieves looks ahead on this tour and projects ahead.
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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