Brett - Crisp New Order styled beats with shimmering pop guitar moves greet me when this local quartet hits the stage. They have a lead vocalist who exhibits great style in delivering these catchy songs. Yet the real winner for me, is the overall strength and assertive playing that the band has which pushes the rhythmic dance music deeper into rock territory. They had a woman from another band pop on stage to do a song with them, which not only gave a new voice, but transformed the whole band into something slightly different with a darker backdrop for her spoken/sung rap. This was no dull guest spot, here. But even if she is not around for future sets, the core music here is strong enough to allow this band to continue to grow into a serious player around town.
Nightlands - From nearby Philadelphia, comes this intriguing quartet. The guitarist handles all lead vocals, while the other three harmonize extensively as they surround him on drums and two keyboard banks. I was expecting more dance oriented fun, but they surprised me with solid rock music with enough pop hooks and flowing songs. Their opener rocked in the smoothest of styles as if Midlake were trying to play like the Doors. They slowed it down thereafter and dug deeper into intelligent low-key pop music, maybe like a more somber Van Dyke Parks, although I have never had a good grasp of his style. I do hear a bit of Midlake, but I like this band better. The harmonies are powerful and dig deeper than most bands are capable of. The large crowd was getting into this, yet I still think that this will take a couple of listens to really appreciate what they are doing. But the strong harmonies and passion for the music carried the band forward to a successful set. Hopefully, they will visit regularly.
Hands - This LA band is making its way here for the first time and with a nod to fine booking, seemed to have a sound squarely in between that of the first two bands. Less harmonies here with more of the guitar/bass/drums sound, although the lead vocalist occasionally adds a keyboard or an electronic loop. The drums are really strong and together with the bass keep this from becoming straight pop music. It does head off to dream pop-land much of the time and got a little less interesting late in the set before they closed with a solid song. If they keep working out creative ways to work in the rhythmic thrust they have with the interesting guitar patterns they employ fewer times than I would like, they could develop into a fine band. For now, they are decent and easily likable, but I hope they can go further.
Quote of the Night: From Nightlands on this hot, hot night.... "We sweat like Patrick Ewing up here."