Inlets, Lewis and Clarke, Ola Podrida and Hula @ Union Pool, 2-24-07
|I wasn't going in cold but it was close. I'd seen a previous show organized by local promoter Jezebel Music and had been impressed enough to keep checking their upcoming calendar. And I enjoyed the Inlets music I'd heard on their MySpace page enough to seek it out live. But other than that and given the three bands I'd never heard of, I had no idea what to expect. It was a nice feeling, made even better by the pre-show chicken burrito, double-shot espresso and few PBRs I'd consumed along the way. |
Inlets came on first to a still slow-arriving crowd. Driven by Sebastian Krueger, erstwhile My Brightest Diamond instrumentalist, the band played music for great coffeeshops—lo-fi, sweet, folky, crafted, appealing. It's thinking music for thinking people, the kind of tunes that can easily be backgrounded if you also happen to be thumbing through a dense paperback at the time. Or just as easily, they can rise to the forefront, patient and lush, inviting you to a closer listen to their layers when you have a moment. Live, they were louder than on record, but the underpinning subtletly and care shone through all the same.
Lewis and Clarke
Next was Lewis and Clarke, led by long-haired Pennsylvanian Lou Rogai. Joined by a cellist (my best guess is this was The Rachels' Eve Miller, who plays on the album), Rogai began to strum a low, near-spiritual melody that floated over the crowd like a fog on a moor. It was a precursor to the bliss to follow, with Rogai's voice growing especially placid and moving. The strings were another key element, shading the soft guitar like an eloquent wife supporting her shy spouse. Lewis and Clarke continued to similarly enthrall me throughout their set. It actually qualified as "hypnotic," a descriptor that usually makes me cringe or at least skeptical. It also ended up being my favorite performance of the evening.
Ola PodridaThe third act, Ola Podrida, claimed the stage next. Their lead singer, David Wingo, is an Austin-to-Brooklyn transplant and the band produced the kind of country music you might anticipate from that cross-country detour. It was country with an edge, rocking out with hints of urban toughness, heart-on-sleeve folk and a hard-driving cool. It could range from troubadour emoting to unstoppable head-nodding rhythms, but it was consistently well done and engaging. At the start of their show, I'd been snapping photos like the requisite paparazzo I am, and the girl in front of me turned to ask, "Are you a Wingo fan too?" By set's end, I decided that yeah, I was now.
Last up was Hula, a five-piece band with two vocalists, Chad King and Madelyn Burgess. They were immediately arresting and perhaps not altogether unlike Lewis and Clarke, favoring somber, trickling mood pieces with slow-burning vocals that creep and drift. It's atmospheric to the maximum, provided you're in the proper mindset and have the patience to let the songs unfold like stop-motion origami. The neatest comparison (and one I hesitate to make because they must get it all the time) is Low, right down to the male-female vocal tradeoffs. But then many of their songs were also majestic enough to rival Low's stature.
So in the end, it proved to be quite the formidable showcase. I heartily enjoyed all of the bands without exception, I would've happily watched a full set by any of them, and I'd certainly recommend picking up any and all of their albums. Credit largely has to go to Jezebel Music for organizing the event and choosing such quality acts. With so many disappointments, near-misses and non-starters I'm routinely subjected to, I was very surprised at how great this show was from start to end. I'm looking forward to following these bands to see what they do next. Although no expectations have given way to high expectations, I'm betting that they'll have no problem stepping up to them.
* MP3: "Pictures of Trees" - Inlets from Vestibule EP
* MP3: "See Her, Seer" - Inlets from Vestibule EP [Download the EP]
* MP3: "Jordanna" - Ola Podrida from Ola Podrida [Visit them]