Trend alert: The piano is back, at least judging by how the bands at Sokol last night relied on keyboards. And these keyboards weren’t synth-tones or organs, they all were set to “piano.” Which makes this some sort of trend in my book, at least among indie bands.
Eagle*Seagull sounded as good as you would expect on Sokol’s stage with its superior sound system and room to roam. This was the first time I really noticed the violin (though barely) on a couple numbers. Their sound seems to continue to evolve, as this set was dramatically different than the O’Leaver’s set a few months back — fuller, more well-bodied, just like a good beer. Imagine how they’ll sound after they tour for a few months. A glance at their myspace account shows that the band will be heading out for a month and a half of dates starting Feb. 9 at The Replay Lounge in Lawrence, traipsing throughout the south, southeast, east coast and back through the Midwest, returning home to Duffy’s March 19. They are arguably the hottest band out of Lincoln right now, on the verge, and will likely be the first Lincoln indie to achieve a Saddle Creek-level of success.
Next up was Ghosty. The Lawrence four-piece played a tight set of poppy indie rock with shades of Pavement and Dismemberment Plan. Pretty. Interesting. Very radio friendly thanks to a frontman that can belt it out like a real pro.
Then came Landing on the Moon sounding the best that I’ve ever heard them, better than I thought they could sound, better than they sound on their EP. The first two numbers made me doubt the comments I’d written in my feature about the band, the ones where I said their music has a ’60s flair to it. Those first two songs were decidedly modern-sounding, very Wolf Parade/Arcade Fire-esque, except for the keyboards that were front and center. Megan Morgan only uses a “grand piano” tone on her keys, and the effect adds a warm wash over their electric edges. LotM has a distinct advantage in that they have three vocalists, each handling leads on one of the first three tunes, and each adding harmonies throughout — those harmonies make all the difference, especially in these days when so few bands know how to harmonize at all. That said, vocalist/guitarist John Klemmensen was the standout, with a gorgeous, brassy style that easily cuts through the arrangements. The fact that drummer Oliver Morgan could sing leads at all while providing his classic stickwork is impressive enough; his harmonies, however, are where he really shines. Then there’s Megan, clearly the crowd favorite — every intro where she was mentioned was met with hoots. In addition to playing the songs from their EP, they unveiled two new ones that they’ll regret not having recorded for this release. One was a Klemmensen song that had a pop edginess, while the other featured Megan and reached back beyond the ’60s to the ’50s, glowing with Shawn Cox’s Honey Drippers-style slide guitar. Central to every number was Morgan’s drumming — crisp and bouncing or deep and throbbing and exactly what it needed to be. Unlike the other three bands on the bill, LotM doesn’t have well-defined tour plans. They’ll have to figure out a way to build on this show’s momentum to keep moving forward.
Finally, on came Minneapolis’ Clair de Lune, drawing the biggest crowd reaction (though by midnight at least a third of the 165-paid had left). You could call them Cursive with keyboards, but that wouldn’t be quite right. Their keyboard parts are so distinct and interesting that it makes the band stand apart. Again, using mostly an acoustic-piano tone, the keyboards were simple but added a layer of coolness echoed by the lead guitar. I can see why people dig this band, though they seemed almost too regressively indie to me, especially their vocals, which had a Victory Records tint to them.
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