Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Lone Bellow - Escondido -- 9:30 Club - Mar 1 2016

by John Miller

Escondido - A different crowd tonight at 9:30 as the lineup features two 'alt country' acts, Escondido and The Lone Bellow. Despite unfamiliar surroundings, the audience is no less responsive. It is packed and I find myself moving from corner to corner so I can be as social awkward as possible. Escondido is touring in support of their latest release, 'Walking With A Stranger'. The term 'alt country' seems to be thrown about pretty freely nowadays. I feel like Nashville has this twang meter and if your band isn’t reaching maximum twang levels, you are automatically designated as 'alt country'. Escondido is country through and through; there isn't really anything that should designate them ‘alt’ in anyway. There is twang, melancholy, and harmonies just in measured amounts. There are some elements here that generally would not fit into the very stringent country classification; crashing cymbals, guitar solos, but that the structures are built on the familiar. As the set continues, the club seems to get warmer and warmer. It's becoming uncomfortable as the stragglers finally make their way in. I will say that Escondido is far more personable than any act I have seen at 9:30. The interaction with the occasionally rowdy chorus is light and somewhat innocent. I am surprised at how much attention they pay to the drunks yelling out nonsense. They never chastise the vocal but instead give them the time to make their point, and then continue with the promotion.  However, considering how safe the music is, it shouldn't be a surprise that they are so agreeable. This is all very safe. Like I said earlier, the structure of the compositions is built on the classics and any wavering is done so carefully. It's almost selfish in its ignorance. That sounds worse than I mean but it as if the outside world is inconsequential and all that matters are these personal songs. As far as similar acts, to be honest, they kind of reminded me of mid nineties radio giants, The Cranberries; especially the slower stuff. In fact at one point I thought they were going to play a cover of Linger.
The Lone Bellow - Like Escondido before them, The Lone Bellow is supporting a relatively new album, 'Then Came Morning'. And they too are classified as 'alt country'. The classification still confounds me as I would think they are closer to something like Dashboard Confessional; emotional and quite earnest. But tonight begins with something a little more upbeat. Looks like I need to find another corner. One of the other things that immediately stuck out was the authority with which the drums were played. It's nothing crazy, no double bass but the force behind each hit is impressive. They sound great. Much like Escondido, the structure of their compositions is built on the familiar. It's safe and every song up until this point is almost religious: meaning that there is this sense of each song building to something almost spiritual. The earlier comparison eventually makes sense, as they begin with the earnest after warming up the crowd with three up tempo numbers. And what would any 'alt country' band be without a mandolin? It has almost become a trope at this point. Regardless of my feelings on that particular instrument, the crowd continues to eat this up. I don't think I have ever heard it as loud here as it is tonight. There have been sing-alongs, abrupt applause in the middle of songs, and a desperate attempt to try and keep rhythm with The Lone Bellow by clapping to the beat.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Forget any attempts to classify TLB's music. Their live concerts are incredible. Tuesday night's show didn't disappoint. How do they pull off that level of passion and intensity night after night? PBS filmed the entire performance. Coming soon to a living room near you. Then the cat will be out of the bag. Don't let anyone else in on our little secret. TLB is ours! Praying they won't succumb to big money, yet remain focused on engaging club audiences. Fan for life!