Trails & Ways - First up tonight is a twin guitar quartet with rhythm section that we have seen many times before. One difference is that all members sing, with two female voices and three different lead vocalists. That variety keeps things fresh, as the music is quite often the usual sort of light indie rock fare that does not stand out too much for me, with so many bands doing this sort of thing. There were some nice lead guitar jabs that cut into the rhythm in more creative ways, which helped quite a bit. And a couple of songs seemed quite moving on first listen. So, all in all, this is a good opening act that hopefully will use this touring experience to sharpen up some areas, go loose and crazy in others, and keep working on new songs that really sing to a crowd.
Phox - My how things can change in such a short time. It was not long ago when I discovered this band in an opening slot at the Black Cat. They impressed me a lot that night and I made sure to see them again when they were an opener at the Hamilton less than a year back. They quickly established this headlining show for a large tour in support of their first album, which surprised me a little in that I was not sure audiences would discover them this quickly. And of course as this sort of lead-in implies, it was not a problem tonight as the show was sold-out with an excited diverse crowd. As I have written three times already, this band has a strong focal point with the sultry vocals and great style of Monica Martin. But it does not take an expert listener too long to realize that the full band has strong players that understand nuance and subtlety much better than most bands. they smoothly work from guitars to keyboards with a trumpet and banjo to spice things up some. If anything, they seem to have even more moments of musical intensity as they are stretching out their range from their brand of great lounge pop music into stronger rock moves with thicker sounds. They have some new material including a killer pop ballad that I look forward to hearing again, hopefully soon. If it just took hard touring, a lot of bands would succeed. But the high school friends from Baraboo, Wisconsin that have formed Phox have tons of talent and style and work together to make it succeed at a high level. What's next, Lisner Auditorium or the Lincoln Theatre? We shall see.
Quote of the Night: from Ms. Martin... "I probably sound like a broken record, but thank you all for coming tonight..." Take the word probably out, as she was gushing that about every other song. Fortunately, her quirky patter is part of the fun as you (and probably her as well) are never quite sure of what she will come up with next.